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War crimes?

August 29, 2011

A US prosecutor is to head a task force investigating alleged criminal activity, including organ trafficking, by Kosovar leaders including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Organ transplant operation
Civilian organs were allegedly sold during the Kosovo warImage: AP

A task force to investigate allegations that Kosovo's prime minister was involved in an organ trafficking network has announced the investigation will be led by a US prosecutor.

John Clint Williamson was named 'lead prosecutor' in the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) task force, which was set up to investigate allegations raised in a Council of Europe report last year.

The 27-page report implicated incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in charges that also included drug trafficking during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

The allegations

The report's author, Dick Marty, has alleged that Thaci, along with other rebel commanders, ran detention centers on Albania's border with Kosovo. There, civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market.

The 2010 report said former KLA leaders were complicit in assassinations, abductions and beatings.

Hashim Thaci in parliament
Thaci was named 27 times in the 2010 reportImage: picture alliance / dpa

Thaci has denied the allegation and said he is ready to cooperate with any investigation into the claims.

The claims were first made public in a book by former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte and were investigated by UN authorities in 2004, but a fully-fledged probe was never launched.

Both the UN and EULEX have maintained investigations into the alleged organ harvesting but failed to yield any evidence. Mounting pressure from Serbia and its ally Russia has brought the issue to international attention.

Williamson was head of Kosovo's Justice Department in 2001-2002 when the territory was under the administration of the United Nations. He was in charge of overseeing Kosovo's prisons and the justice system. He then served as the US' Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.

EULEX was launched only months after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 to oversee and strengthen rule of law. The mission is empowered to take on cases considered too sensitive for the local judiciary.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (AP/AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler