Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was the big winner in the December 12 elections in Kosovo with his party capturing slightly over 33% of the vote. These elections were to have been the icing on the cake as the first vote since Kosovo declared independence in 2008. This victory is turning sour however due to both the fraud allegations regarding the elections but more importantly a Council of Europe report reflecting the investigations of former Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty. Marty claims to have accumulated documented evidence that Mr. Thaci the former head of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) was the head of a major drug gang operating in Kosovo and Albania and that following the war against the Serbs his organization had executed Serb prisoners and had harvested their organs particularly kidneys. The Strasbourg headquartered Council of Europe as distinct from the European Union comprises 47 states on the European continent and is a leader on human rights issues. Membership in the Council is contingent on respect for human rights including the abolition of the death penalty.
If the charges contained in the Marty Report stick it could pose a major embarrassment to the United States that had enthusiastically supported Kosovo’s unilateral Declaration of Independence as well as most members of the European Union (the exceptions were countries like Spain who due to their sensitivity about setting a precedent for separatist movements in their own country such as the Basque ETA displayed greater reluctance). Previously in 1999 US led NATO forces had intervened when Serbia attempted to reassert control over its autonomous province and a bombing campaign compelled the Serbian Army to withdraw. Compounding this embarrassment are the charges by Mr. Marty and his fellow investigators that “The international actors chose to turn a blind eye to the war crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army, placing a premium instead on achieving some degree of short-term stability,”the report even accused these same international actors of destroying evidence incriminating the KLA.
The report spoke of sophisticated processing centers that selected the victims in terms of their physical characteristics, murdered them and shipped off their organs to private clinics throughout Europe. The victims were initially Serbs but Albanian opponents of the KLA were also kidnapped, and executed and their organs were then employed to line the pockets of the KLA leadership.
The Serbs who had previously been depicted as the villains and the perpetrators of war crimes in their fight to retain control of what they considered the cradle of their nation view the reports as vindication. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent state and in the recent elections ordered a boycott by Kosovo’s Serb minority. Serbia’s Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic visiting Moscow Serbia’s historic protector believes Thaci’s future is now uncertain.
“I don’t know what sort of future this person has if you take into account the report … about his participation in the heroin trade, human trafficking and human organs and his role as the head of one of the most organised criminal-mafia clans in the Balkans,”
European Union police who have been stationed in Kosovo to help the new state handle law and order problems including organized crime and to provide security for the Serb minority went into action following the report in an attempt to gather “hard facts”. This was one way of casting aspersions at the Marty report that presumably was not sustained by hard facts. The police also offered to meet with representatives of the Council of Europe to study the evidence and possibly act upon it. The EU has indicated elsewhere that it has few illusions about Thaci. A report issued by the European Commission noted “discrepancies between the income and properties of senior Kosovo officials,”This demonstrated corruption at high levels that went uninvestigated and unprosecuted.
Thaci and his colleagues however are still regarded as liberators in Kosovo allowing them to shrug off charges particularly when they insinuate that the evidence had been manufactured by the Serbs to besmirch the leadership and by inference the Kosovar Albanians as a whole.
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