Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kosovo PM seeks to sue European investigator

Kosovo's prime minister is planning to sue a European investigator whose report suggested he had civilian detainees killed for their kidneys when he was head of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a senior Kosovo official said Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has contacted attorneys to consult them about pursuing a libel suit against Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty. The official said Thaci is also considering suing the London-based Guardian newspaper, which first published the report.

Marty rocked Kosovo with his allegations made public Tuesday that civilian detainees of the KLA rebels were shot to death to sell their kidneys on the black market and suggesting that Thaci was once the "boss" of a criminal underworld behind the grisly trade.

Marty was expected to speak at a press conference in Paris in the afternoon.

Thaci was the rebel army's political head during the 1998-99 war with Serbia, and his party just won Kosovo's first general elections since it declared its 2008 independence. He has not appeared in public since the report was released, but his office said he was to address the media Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe human rights panel for whom Marty conducted the investigation voted to recommend international and national investigations into the report, it said.

The council's legal affair committee accused international organizations of being aware of the crimes, but looking the other way "to promote short-term stability at any price."

The investigation has discovered that "very serious criminal acts are taking place, have taken place and probably are still taking place and therefore the governments all over Europe should think seriously about taking steps about it," said Christos Pourgourides, the committee's chairman.

Agron Bajrami, head of Kosovo's largest daily, Koha Ditore, argued that Marty's report will have consequences for Kosovo's Western backers because "it alleges that everybody somehow conspired to hide these terrible crimes."

"This is not only about Mr. Thaci in Kosovo," Bajrami said. "It is also about the Western world and the 1999 intervention. It seems to try to say that whatever happened after the 1999 war was even more terrible than the war itself and what Serbia did here."

NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days to make it stop its brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians.

Marty, a Swiss senator, led a team of investigators to Kosovo and Albania in 2009, following allegations of organ trafficking published in a book by former U.N. War Crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte who said she was given information by Western journalists.

Marty's investigation found that there were a number of detention facilities in Albania, where both Kosovan opponents of the KLA and Serbs were allegedly held once the hostilities in Kosovo were over in 1999, including a "state-of-the-art reception center for the organized crime of organ trafficking."

EU investigators looking into claims that organ harvesting took place in northern Albania have said they found no proof of the allegations. The EU police force in Kosovo on Wednesday called for those with evidence to come forward.

Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to the report

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