Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Kosovo PM pleads innocence, as organ trafficking scandal simmers

  • Graffiti-scrawled independence monument in Pristina: the organ scandal has put a fresh stain on the reputation of the KLA (Photo: CharlesFred)

Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has in an interview with EUobserver denounced recent accusations on organ trafficking as an attempt to rewrite history.

Asked by this website when he first heard of the Yellow House, a building in Albania where Mr Thaci's guerrillas are said to have murdered Serb prisoners and cut out their kidneys to sell on the black market, the 42-year-old ethnic Albanian politician said: "I heard about it from the 'Yellow' media of Belgrade, and the Carla Del Ponte book."

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Ms Del Ponte, the one-time chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), first made the organ accusations in a book in 2008. A fresh report by Swiss politician Dick Marty endorsed by the Council of Europe in December named Mr Thaci and five top leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as running the organ trafficking ring.

Mr Thaci went on to say: "The KLA waged a just war, a war for liberation. It is known world-wide who committed genocide. The aim of the [Marty] report is the criminalisation of the war for liberation, but also the damaging of the image of the Republic of Kosovo, of preventing new recognitions of Kosovo statehood, which are to come, harming the image of Albania and harming the upcoming dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia."

"It's an attempt to attack the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, which is a European agenda. This pamphlet is an attack also against the USA, the EU, Nato and the UN ... The anti-Kosovo club of Dick Marty, which was against Nato bombings and against making Kosovo into a country, is also against the current agenda of making Kosovo into a successful state."

He added: "We will use all legal and political measures against this slander ... I have requested clarification because we, as the Kosovo state, we the people of Kosovo, have nothing to hide and the issue must be clarified."

The standard narrative of the Kosovo War says that the forces of Serbian hardman Slobodan Milosevic perpetrated mass war crimes against ethnic Albanians during the region's struggle for independence in a campaign which led to Nato bombings of Belgrade in 1999.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has so far been recognised by 73 UN countries, including the US, 22 EU members and Switzerland but not Serbia, China or Russia. An EU-mediated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on problematic issues, such as the status of the ethnic-Serb-dominated northern part of Kosovo, is expected to start in February.

Ms Del Ponte, currently Switzerland's ambassador to Argentina, and Mr Marty declined to comment on their organ trafficking allegations when contacted by EUobserver in recent weeks. The Serbian President, Boris Tadic, also did not respond to an interview request.

The EU line is that Mr Marty should put forward hard evidence to Eulex, the EU police mission in Kosovo, if there is to be a trial.

The Marty report could damage the EU-led Kosovo-Serbia reconciliation process, however, with Kosovo's acting president, Jakup Krasniqi, telling the Pristina-based daily, Koha Ditore, on 4 January that the February talks should be postponed until the mess is cleared up.

Aside from the specific Marty allegations against Mr Thaci, Serb politician Rasim Ljajic in December requested that the ICTY investigate Soren Jessen-Petersen, a former chief of the UN force in Kosovo, Unmik, for covering up organ trafficking evidence.

Leading Serb newspaper Politika last month, citing sources in the Serb Prosecutor's Office, also said that Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha took part in arms smuggling and organ trafficking during the war, in a report rebuffed as a "racist slur" by Tirana.

Meanwhile, Agence France Presse reported on Friday (7 February) that Eulex will decide in the next two weeks whether or not to open a trial against seven people on organ trafficking charges related to the Medicus Clinic in Pristina.

An Eulex panel led by German judge Klaus Jung has been looking into allegations that the seven, including a doctor known as the "Turkish Frankenstein," offered donors from poor countries in eastern Europe and Central Asia €15,000 for their organs in violation of Kosovar law.

Eulex on Saturday also charged two former KLA guerrillas, Sabit Geci and Riza Alija, with "war crimes" relating to torture of detainees in the the Kosovar towns of Kukes and Cahan in 1999. The police mission arrested the two men in June. Mr Geci was named in the Marty report as being suspected of beating and shooting to death one civilian in Kukes.

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