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US prosecutor to investigate Kosovo PM for organ trafficking

The European Union Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo [official website] announced Monday that US prosecutor John Clint Williamson will lead an investigation into allegations that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci [official profile] participated in an organ trafficking scheme during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Claims made in a report [text] authored by Council of Europe (COE) [official website] member Dick Marty [BBC profile] indicate that Thaci served as the "boss" of an illegal criminal enterprise [JURIST report] that trafficked human organs and drugs during the war. Though Thaci strongly denies the allegations and has pledged to cooperate with the investigation, the report was based on a two-year investigation that concluded that Kosovo Liberation Arm (ALK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] soldiers, lead by Thaci, ran detention centers where civilians were killed and their organs sold on the black market [BBC report].

The COE report alleges that Thaci was the leader of the KLA Drenica Group, a criminal network that controlled the heroin trade and the black market trafficking of kidneys of executed Serbian and Albanian war prisoners. News of the report's accusations prompted the government to respond [press release], denying the allegations and calling them an attempt to harm Thaci's reputation following his party's victory in the nation's parliamentary elections last year. Claims of Kosovo's involvement in human organ trafficking originated in 2008 when former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] alleged in a book [JURIST report] about her time at the tribunal that roughly 300 Serbian and other non-Albanian prisoners were victims of organ trafficking during the war. That year, Serbian prosecutors condemned Albania's refusal to initiate [JURIST report] an investigation into allegations of organ trafficking in Kosovo. Albanian Prosecutor General Ina Rama refused to cooperate with Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic [official website] and said that her country would only pursue the allegations if the ICTY decided to reopen its investigation.

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