News 29 Jul 14

Senior Kosovo Guerrillas Face Crimes Against Humanity Cases

An EU report said top Kosovo Liberation Army officials will be prosecuted for crimes against humanity including murders and abductions but there was not enough evidence yet for organ-trafficking indictments.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina
Task force prosecutor Clint Williamson. Photo: Beta.

The report published on Tuesday by the EU’s Special Investigative Task Force said that unnamed “senior officials of the former Kosovo Liberation Army” will face indictments for crimes against humanity and other abuses committed after the 1999 conflict.

“These individuals bear responsibility for a campaign of persecution that was directed against the ethnic Serb, Roma, and other minority populations of Kosovo and toward fellow Kosovo Albanians who they labeled either to be collaborators with Serbs or, more commonly, simply to have been political opponents of the KLA leadership,” Clint Williamson, the lead prosecutor with the task force, told a press conference in Brussels.

Their crimes include “unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, other forms of inhumane treatment, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites”, Williamson said.

"We believe that the evidence is compelling that these crimes were not the acts of rogue individuals acting on their own accord, but rather that they were conducted in an organised fashion and were sanctioned by certain individuals in the top levels of the KLA leadership," he added.

He said there were “compelling indications” that “a few individuals were killed with the intention of extracting their organs” by KLA fighters.

But the allegations that hundreds of prisoners were killed and their organs sold was “totally unsupported”.

“There are no indications that this was widespread,” he said.

He explained that there was not enough evidence for any organ-trafficking indictments yet, but prosecutions could not be ruled out in the future.

The report meanwhile expressed concern about what it called a “climate of witness intimidation” in Kosovo, saying that there had been attempts to interfere with witnesses during the task force’s investigation.

“As long as a few powerful people continue to thwart investigations into their own criminality, the people of Kosovo as a whole pay the price as this leaves a dark cloud over the country,” it said.

Reacting to the report, the Kosovo government said that it was “an important step in determining the potential responsibilities of individuals and putting an end to unfounded allegations and accusations”.

The EU task force was established in 2011 to look into allegations presented in a controversial report by the Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty.

Marty’s report linked senior former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters, including outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, to organised crime, and accused them of harvesting the organs of Serbian prisoners and others in Albania during the 1998-99 war.

It suggested that an organ harvesting and trafficking network could have operated out of in a villa in the town of Fushe Kruje in Albania, where some ethnic Serbs and Albanians were killed and their kidneys removed for sale, and detailed other human rights abuses by people connected to the former KLA.

The allegations have been strongly rejected by those accused.

A new Netherlands-based special tribunal with international judges to prosecute alleged wartime crimes committed by former KLA fighters is due to start work next year.

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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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