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Council of Europe demands Kosovo, Albania investigate organ trafficking

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] demanded [press release] Tuesday that Albania and Kosovo investigate and prosecute alleged incidents of organ trafficking, inhuman treatment and other crimes by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [official website] during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In a report [text], compiled by Dick Marty [personal website, in Italian] of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe [official website], PACE declared:

The Assembly strongly reaffirms the need for an absolutely uncompromising fight against impunity for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations, and wishes to point out that the fact that these were committed in the context of a violent conflict could never justify a decision to refrain from prosecuting anyone who has committed such acts. There cannot and must not be one justice for the winners and another for the losers. Whenever a conflict has occurred, all criminals must be prosecuted and held responsible for their illegal acts, whichever side they belonged to and irrespective of their political role.
PACE called for EU member states and the Council of Europe to contribute to and support the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), as well as provide all pertinent information requested. The report was approved unanimously following a debate [transcript] and was the culmination of an investigation announced two years ago [JURIST report]. At that time, Albania refused to investigate [JURIST report] the allegations. In the debate, Marty also contended that Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci [official website, in Albanian] headed a splinter group of the KLA and that he "exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics" and "ordered—and in some cases personally over[saw]—assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations in various parts of Kosovo." Albania and Kosovo now welcome an international probe [Reuters report] but have denied [AFP report] Thaci's involvement. Thaci has also systematically denied the allegations [statement, in Albanian].

Former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile] alleged in a book [JURIST report] that approximately 300 Serbian and other non-Albanian prisoners were victims of organ trafficking during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, but that a 2003 probe by her ICTY team failed to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute. In response, parliamentarians submitted a motion [text] in 2008 requesting that the Assembly investigate the organ trafficking charges. Del Ponte said reliable sources told her that members of the KLA took the organs of young, healthy prisoners for black-market sales [Kosovo Compromise report]. The Swiss Foreign Ministry later barred Del Ponte from promoting the book because it was inconsistent with her role as the Swiss ambassador. In March of 2008, the office of the Serbian war crimes prosecutor [official website] said that it was investigating "informal statements" [JURIST report] received from ICTY investigators alleging illegal organ harvesting. The next month, Serbia announced [JURIST report] that it planned to officially request that the ICTY resume a probe into the organ trafficking allegations, even though Kosovo Justice Minister Nekibe Kelmendi dismissed the allegations as "fabrications." The same month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] leaders of Kosovo and Albania to launch an investigation into the allegations, but, as of May, had not received a response.

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