Kosovo: Security Council debate hears calls for probe into alleged human organ trafficking
The top United Nations official in Kosovo called for an urgent investigation into allegations that members of the KLA trafficked in human organs in 1999, when it was pitted against ethnic Serbs and the Yugoslav army
The top United Nations official in Kosovo called on February 16 2011 for an urgent investigation into allegations that members of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) trafficked in human organs in 1999, when it was pitted against ethnic Serbs and the Yugoslav army.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier said, according to a report by the UN News Service, that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe urged such an enquiry in January after receiving a report from its Special Rapporteur Dick Marty on alleged criminal activities by the KLA.
"In my view, this Council of Europe report needs to be taken seriously and an investigation launched as a matter of priority in the interests of all," Zannier told the Security Council. "Of course it is crucial that adequate protection be provided to all witnesses."
Zannier was presenting Ban’s latest report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, which ran Kosovo from 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid the bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians until 2008 when Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Serbia has not recognised it.
In his report, Ban said that political developments in Kosovo over the past three months, in particular the December 12 parliamentary elections, slowed down momentum generated by the European Union’s declared readiness to facilitate dialogue.
"It is my hope that the period ahead will see renewed momentum in moving the dialogue process forward," Ban said.
"Although it is regrettable that, as of the date of this report, representatives of Pristina and Belgrade have not yet met, I am pleased that the European Union representatives appointed to facilitate the talks have held several preparatory meetings with the sides," he said, referring to the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia and reiterating the UN’s commitment to continue working closely with the EU in bringing the process forward.
The assembly elections, organised by the Kosovo authorities without UNMIK involvement, were held in a peaceful atmosphere, but Zannier said that local and international observers reported "widespread irregularities and manipulation of votes."
He said that he hoped that with the elections now over, a new Kosovo government "will be sufficiently strong and stable to engage authoritatively in a substantive dialogue with Belgrade."
Unresolved issues in northern Kosovo continue to be a key challenge to long-term stability due to the opposition of Serbs there to engagement with the Kosovo institutions, Zannier said.
"There will be no long-term stability and development in Kosovo without a successful process of reconciliation among the communities," he said. "Therefore, there is a pressing need to launch a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and work towards establishing viable cooperation and lasting peace and security."
Addressing the Security Council February 16 meeting, Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic said an independent criminal investigation of the allegations is "essential", VOANews reported.
" "Such an investigation must be internationally mandated as well as internationally accountable. It must also be able to provide an effective witness protection and relocation program to guarantee credible testimony by all," Jeremic said.
Kosovo’s government and prime minister Hashim Thaci have vigorously denied the accusations, saying they are nothing more than politically motivated slander against the country’s leaders and an attempt to undermine Kosovo’s three years of independence from Serbia.
Kosovo’s acting foreign minister Vlora Citaku reiterated her government’s firm rejection of the allegations.
She said that the accusations have been subject to international investigations before by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and UNMIK, but she said Pristina would welcome further investigation from EULEX, the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo.
"The government of Kosovo wishes to reaffirm its official stance that in light of the severity of the allegations it will insist on the prompt launch of a thorough investigation by EULEX prosecutors on the ground.
"EULEX, entrusted by the UN and EU to support the local juridical system, has the expertise, the resources, the prosecutors and the judges to thoroughly investigate the allegations put forth. We will add to it our full co-operation," she said.
EULEX has said that their prosecutors have already opened a preliminary investigation into the allegations and they have called on all relevant organisations and individuals, including Dick Marty, to present what evidence they have regarding the accusations.
Serbia’s foreign minister said an investigation by EULEX would not be sufficient on its own, because the mission cannot operate outside of Kosovo and the allegations appear to extend beyond that territory to countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Most UN Security Council members said they would support EULEX looking into the allegations and did not express the need for a separate investigation. Russia, a close ally of Serbia, was one of the major exceptions, saying it supports the idea of an international investigation accountable to the United Nations.