News 20 Dec 10

Albania Minister Denies Investigating Allegations of KLA Crimes

Albania’s Minister of Interior Lulzim Basha has denied assisting an ICTY expert who travelled to the country in 2003 to investigate claims that the Kosovo Liberation Army harvested organs of Serb prisoners.

Besar Likmeta
Tirana

“This is a dumb declaration, I have never been in any yellow house,” Basha told reporters in the city of Shkodra on Sunday, referring to an ICTY investigation of a house in the Mat region in northern Albania where Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, has alleged that Serb prisoners were killed for their organs.

The allegations that Basha assisted the ICTY as a translator were made by former forensics expert Pablo Baraybar.

In an interview for Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Baraybar said that had visited northern Albania incognito to investigate the claims in 2003, and had been assisted by Basha, who worked as a legal expert for UNMIK in Kosovo at the time.

“My translator was Lulzim Basha, he became interior minister in Albania later and I have heard him say that the allegations were nonexistent, while he was with me,” said Baraybar.

“I know that he knows, we were together and he has seen the dossier,” Baraybar added.

Basha's alleged presence at the investigation in 2003 surfaced after the contents of a draft Council of Europe report hit headlines around the world last week.

The document, drafted by Dick Marty, a Swiss MP in the Council of Europe, links a group of former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters, including Kosovo's current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, to organised crime and organ harvesting.

Basha said the claims made in the report, which was approved by the CoE's Legal and Political Affairs Committee in Paris on Thursday, were only recycled allegations. 

The report also criticises Albania for not cooperating in investigating the alleged abuses.

Thaci, whose party won the recent elections in Kosovo, called the report "scandalous" and said it is filled with defamation and lies, in a press conference last Thursday.

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Background

From Kosovo's Organ-Harvesting Controversy to Special Court

This is the sequence of events leading from the organ-trafficking allegations in Kosovo to the creation of the special court that aims to prosecute Kosovo Liberation Army crimes.

Fatmir Limaj, Kosovo's Road-Builder

Corruption allegations have not dented the popularity of the KLA- fighter-turned-PDK politician who has made it his mission to transform the country’s traffic arteries.

KLA : From Guerilla Wars to Party Plenums

The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that came to the fore in the mid-1990s, demanding the unification of Albanian territories in former Yugoslavia with Albania.

KLA Ran Torture Camps in Albania

The Kosovo Liberation Army maintained a network of prisons in their bases in Albania and Kosovo during and after the conflict of 1999, eyewitnesses allege. Only now are the details of what occurred there emerging.

The Drenica Group

Crime gang allegedly headed by Prime Minister Thaci is said to have run a range of mafia-like enterprises, from cigarette smuggling to trafficking in organs.

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