Council of Europe uncovers organ theft in Kosovo

17 December 2010

Council of Europe uncovers organ theft in Kosovo

In the aftermath of the war in Kosovo organs were removed from people detained in secret prisons run by the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA). The organs were intended for transplant, and following their removal the victims were murdered. One of the leaders of the KLA has since become Prime Minister of Kosovo. These were the conclusions of a far-reaching two-year investigation by the Council of Europe.

The investigation was requested by the leaders of the five political groups in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as well as the leaders of the Russian and Serbian delegations, following allegations regarding the Kosovar organ trade from the former chief prosecutor at the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague, Carla del Ponte. Del Ponte was not able to produce proof before she stood down from her position, but it now appears that Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, a former officer of justice in Switzerland, has succeeded in doing so. Del Ponte has commended Marty's investigation and shares his conclusions.

SP Senator Tiny Kox, who signed the call for an investigation in his capacity as chair of the Assembly’s United European Left group (GUE), describes himself as ‘shocked’ by the report’s provisional conclusions. 'It appears certain that during and after the war close links existed between criminal gangs and political circles in Kosovo. In wars terrible things always occur, but stealing organs from prisoners for transplants is particularly horrific. And it’s at least as bad that international organisations as well as state authorities were apparently aware of the close cooperation between criminals and politicians in Kosovo, and did nothing. Support for the KLA in its struggle with the Serbian army was prioritised over the protection of elementary international principles. They were sacrificed, and with them the lives and dignity of the prisoners concerned.'

In January PACE will debate the shocking report, while a vote will be taken on a resolution calling for a thorough international investigation and full cooperation of all of those involved. 'No stone must be left unturned,’ says Kox. ‘And that goes for the Netherlands, too. We were one of the countries which supported the KLA, including by participating in the illegal NATO bombing campaign. We are also amongst those which have recognised Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence. The Dutch government must look into what was known here about these horrors and why nothing was ever done about them. And every country which has recognised Kosovo must ask itself how it will deal with a government led by a war criminal, if the facts uncovered by the investigation hold up.'

Kox has urged his colleagues in the Assembly to support rapporteur Marty in the face of the huge international pressure currently being put on him and on the Council of Europe by governments of western countries. One positive is that the legal committee of the Council of Europe approved his report unanimously.

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