EU takes first steps on probe into Marty organ-trafficking report

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The EU’s police mission in Kosovo, Eulex, has begun laying the groundwork for an investigation into claims that Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is responsible for murdering Serb prisoners and selling their kidneys in the 1990s.

Eulex chief prosecutor Isabelle Arnal and Kosovar deputy prosecutor Sevdije Morina met with Albanian counterparts in Tirana on Tuesday (18 January) to seek assurances that Albanian authorities would co-operate in the probe.

“It’s the first meeting of this type and it’s too early say [if Tirana will help out],” a Eulex spokeswoman told EUobserver on Wednesday morning.

She added that Eulex some three weeks ago sent a letter requesting hard evidence from Dick Marty, a Swiss politician who put forward the Thaci accusations in a report for the Council of Europe in December. “We know he has received the letter but we don’t know what he’s going to provide,” the spokeswoman said.

Mr Marty on Tuesday broke his media silence in two conciliatory interviews with Albanian-language news agencies.

Speaking to the Swiss-based internet agency albinfo.ch, he said: “I know that seeking the truth can be painful, but it was never my intention to criticise or criminalise a community.” He added: “As far as [Kosovo] independence is concerned, I never opposed independence as such. I opposed and criticised it from a legal perspective … the way independence was declared was not completely correct.”

Speaking to Radio Television of Kosovo, he said: “People very close to Thaci were implicated, so it is very difficult to imagine that he has never heard about it … By no means I can imagine Thaci participating personally in taking out the organs.”

The Council of Europe is to debate his findings on 24 January. The European Parliament is also keen to cross-examine Mr Marty on the issue.

For its part, the US-based Human Rights Watch has called for Eulex to appoint “an independent, high-level special prosecutor who has experience investigating complex criminal cases” and to launch a new witness-protection programme in order to handle the probe.

Lotte Leicht, who runs the NGO’s Brussels office, added that Western powers should use the opportunity to seek answers on what happened to 1,900 people, two-thirds of whom are ethnic Albanian, who remain missing after 1998 to 1999 war.

“While supporting a proper Eulex investigation into alleged KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] crimes, the US and European governments should pressure Serbia to come clean on the fate of the missing, including bodies that were moved, destroyed, or reburied in Serbia,” she said.

Mr Thaci has on numerous occasions denounced the Marty report as a “slander” designed to blacken the name of Kosovar resistance fighters and to deligitimise the Kosovo state.