News 24 Jan 13

Russia Slams EU Over Kosovo Organ Trafficking Case

Belgrade's ally Moscow said the EU had failed to push forward its investigation into alleged organ trafficking by Kosovo fighters during the late 1990s conflict.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

“We have been hindered by the EU’s unconstructive stand, it has ‘usurped’ the case and it’s been dragging its feet ever since,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, claiming that the EU was gradually wrapping up the investigation.

Lavrov was referring to the EU Special Investigative Task Force, SITF, which is in charge of further investigating allegations of organ trafficking contained in a 2010 report by the Council of Europe's then human rights rapporteur, Dick Marty.

The report alleged that some elements within the Kosovo Liberation Army, including Kosovo's current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, had harvested and sold the organs of prisoners during its 1999 conflict with Serbian forces.

SITF spokesperson Juri Las rejected Russia's claim, saying that “the EU is not closing its investigation”.

“We are making progress in the investigation and I can assure you that our work is ongoing. We are making progress in getting relevant information from the field and cooperating with other stakeholders,” Las told Tanjug news agency.

“This is still not visible, because we are taking care of witness protection and therefore we are not making our findings public,” Las added.

The organ trafficking investigation generated more controversy last year when a Serbian TV station broadcast an interview with an alleged ex-Kosovo Liberation Army member who claimed to have harvested the organs of Serbian prisoners in the Albanian town of Kukes in 1999.

The TV interview was criticised by both international and local experts, saying it could harm the investigation into organ trafficking claims.

Both Kosovo and Albania have denied the allegations, while Serbia insists that the investigation should be led by a UN team, in accordance with UN Resolution 1244 on Kosovo, dating from 1999.

Lavrov said that Russia supported “the legitimate demand of Serbia to pass the investigation on to the United Nations, rather than to the EU”.

Russia is an ally of Serbia and regularly takes Belgrade's side in the dispute over Kosovo's independence.

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Background

Kosovo's Organ-Harvesting Controversy

Here is a sequence of events leading up to the organ-trafficking charges in Kosovo and the release of the Council of Europe report.

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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