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Ari Gold

Just the usual.

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Ari Gold

 

Kosovo's prime minister is the head of a "mafia-like" Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe, according to a Council of Europe inquiry report on organised crime.

 

Hashim Thaçi is identified as the boss of a network that began operating criminal rackets in the runup to the 1999 Kosovo war, and has held powerful sway over the country's government since.

 

The report of the two-year inquiry, which cites FBI and other intelligence sources, has been obtained by the Guardian. It names Thaçi as having over the last decade exerted "violent control" over the heroin trade. Figures from Thaçi's inner circle are also accused of taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a number of Serbs are said to have been murdered for their kidneys, which were sold on the black market.

 

Legal proceedings began in a Pristina district court today into a case of alleged organ trafficking discovered by police in 2008. That case – in which organs are said to have been taken from impoverished victims at a clinic known as Medicus – is said by the report to be linked to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organ harvesting in 2000. It comes at a crucial period for Kosovo, which on Sunday held its first elections since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008. Thaçi claimed victory in the election and has been seeking to form a coalition with opposition parties.

 

Dick Marty, the human rights investigator behind the inquiry, will present his report to European diplomats from all 47 member states at a meeting in Paris on Thursday. His report suggests Thaçi's links with organised crime date back more than a decade, when those loyal to his Drenica group came to dominate the KLA, and seized control of "most of the illicit criminal enterprises" in which Kosovans were involved south of the border, in Albania.

 

During the Kosovo conflict Slobodan Miloševic's troops responded to attacks by the KLA by orchestrating a horrific campaign against ethnic Albanians in the territory. As many as 10,000 are estimated to have died at the hands of Serbian troops.

 

While deploring Serb atrocities, Marty said the international community chose to ignore suspected war crimes by the KLA, "placing a premium instead on achieving some degree of short-term stability". He concludes that during the Kosovo war and for almost a year after, Thaçi and four other members of the Drenica group named in the report carried out "assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations". This same hardline KLA faction has held considerable power in Kosovo's government over the last decade, with the support of western powers keen to ensure stability in the fledgling state.

 

The report paints a picture in which ex-KLA commanders have played a crucial role in the region's criminal activity. It says: "In confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaçi and other members of his Drenica group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics."

 

Marty says: "Thaçi and these other Drenica group members are consistently named as 'key players' in intelligence reports on Kosovo's mafia-like structures of organised crime. I have examined these diverse, voluminous reports with consternation and a sense of moral outrage."

 

His inquiry was commissioned after the former chief prosecutor for war crimes at the Hague, Carla Del Ponte, said she had been prevented from investigating senior KLA officials. Her most shocking claim, which she said required further investigation, was that the KLA smuggled captive Serbs across the border into Albania, where their organs were harvested.

 

The report, which states that it is not a criminal investigation and unable to pronounce judgments of guilt or innocence, gives some credence to Del Ponte's claims.

 

It finds the KLA did hold mostly Serb captives in a secret network of six detention facilities in northern Albania, and that Thaçi's Drenica group "bear the greatest responsibility" for prisons and the fate of those held in them.

 

They include a "handful" of prisoners said to have been transferred to a makeshift prison just north of Tirana, where they were killed for their kidneys.

 

The report states: "As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the 'safe house' individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.''

 

The same Kosovan and foreign individuals involved in the macabre killings are linked to the Medicus case, the report finds.

 

Marty is critical of the western powers which have provided a supervisory role in Kosovo's emergence as a state, for failing to hold senior figures, including Thaçi, to account. His report criticises "faltering political will on the part of the international community to effectively prosecute the former leaders of the KLA".

 

It concludes: "The signs of collusion between the criminal class and the highest political and institutional office holders are too numerous and too serious to be ignored.

 

"It is a fundamental right of Kosovo's citizens to know the truth, the whole truth, and also an indispensable condition for reconciliation between the communities and the country's prosperous future."

 

If as expected the report is formally adopted by the committee this week, the findings will go before the parliamentary assembly next year.

 

The Kosovo government tonight dismissed the allegations, claiming they were the produce of "despicable and bizarre actions by people with no moral credibility".

 

"Today, the Guardian published an article that referred to a report from a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Dick Marty, which follows up on past reports published over the last 12 years aiming at maligning the war record of the Kosovo Liberation Army and its leaders," it said in a statement.

 

"The allegations have been investigated several times by local and international judiciary, and in each case, it was concluded that such statements have were not based on facts and were construed to damage the image of Kosovo and the war of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

 

"It is clear that someone wants to place obstacles in the way of prime minister, Hashim Thaçi, after the general election, in which the people of Kosovo placed their clear and significant trust in him to deliver the development programme and governance of our country.

 

"Such despicable and bizarre actions by people with no moral credibility, serve the ends of only those specific circles that do not wish well to Kosovo and its people."

 

Link.

 

 

The ethnic Albanian leaders of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were responsible for organizing human organ trafficking.

 

An areal photo of suspected N. Albania locations (courtesy of the War Crimes Prosecution)

An areal photo of suspected N. Albania locations (courtesy of the War Crimes Prosecution)

 

This is according to a report submitted by CoE investigator Dick Marty, that should be discussed in late January 2011.

 

Members of the KLA kidnapped Serb and other civilians in Kosovo in 1999, to transport them to Albania, where their organs were extracted to be sold in the black market, according to this.

 

International authorities in Kosovo "did nothing to solve this case even though they had the evidence," the report says.

 

The Swiss investigator, who previously revealed CIA-operated prisons in Europe, is thus once again in the spotlight, with the revelation concerning the so-called Yellow House case.

 

According to the report, which B92 has seen, but which is yet to be made public, Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's outgoing prime minister, was the leader of the criminal group that abducted civilians and removed their organs.

 

Thaci headed the KLA Drenica Group in 1999 and organized kidnappings and the illegal organ trade, said the Marty report compiled after two years of investigating.

 

Thaci's KLA group is described as "the most extreme".

 

Marty further implicates the now Kosovo Albanian politician, whose party won most votes in the elections in Kosovo held on Sunday, in heroin trafficking and trade in other narcotics, which he substantiates with numerous intelligence reports from several European countries.

 

"Our first-hand reports have confirmed for us that Hashim Thaci and his close associates ordered, an in some case oversaw murders, imprisonment, beatings and interrogations in Kosovo, especially in the context of operations that the KLA conducted in the territory of Albania, from 1998 until 2000," the report says.

 

The document blames the Drenica Group for responsibility for the secret prisons in Albania and the fate of people imprisoned there, "among them many civilians kidnapped in the territory of Kosovo".

 

Marty's draft resolution to be discussed by the Council of Europe (CoE) states that there are many indications and evidence that confirm that both Serbs and ethnic Albanians were held in secret prisons in northern Albania operated by the KLA.

 

Although many wintesses to these crimes have been killed themselves, others are alive but afraid to testify.

 

However, B92 has learned that Marty believes a sufficient amount of evidence has been collected to make sure those responsible for committing the crimes will be brought to justice.

 

The still-secret report, seen by the BBC in Strasbourg earlier today, shows that prisoners were treated inhumanely and were subjected to humiliation, "before they disappeared".

 

The draft directly names KLA leaders, and says the crimes took place after the end of the 1999 war, and before international forces could impose order.

 

The human organ trade, which developed in the "post-war chaos", then took other forms in Kosovo and continued to this day, says the report, noting the Medicus Clinic case investigated by EULEX.

 

Dick Marty specifies that organs were extracted from prisoners in a clinic in Albania near the town of Fushe Kruje. The organs were then transported via the airport in Tirana to rich clients abroad.

 

Marty writes in the document that concrete signs that the trade took place were evident in the early 2000, but that international authorities in Kosovo "did not consider it necessary to investigate in detail", or investigated "superficially and unprofessionally".

 

The Marty report will be discussed by a CoE commission on Thursday. If adopted, the Parliamentary Committee will debate it in late January of next year.

 

Guardian's take

 

As the Medicus case trial proceeds in Priština today, guardian.co.uk reports that Marty stated that "Kosovo's guerrilla army" formed "a formidable power base in the organized criminal enterprises" in Kosovo and Albania.

 

The faction is known as the Drenica Group was led by Hashim Thaci, became the KLA's dominant faction and senior KLA figures from the group hold senior positions in Kosovo's government today, says the newspaper's report.

 

"In 1999, Thaci was identified as the most dangerous of the KLA's 'criminal bosses' by intelligence reports," according to Marty.

 

Thaci's KLA group is also said to be the main organization responsible for smuggling prisoners across the porous border. They were held in a network of six detention facilities, converted from warehouses, farm buildings and a disused factory.

 

The report, which states that it is not a criminal investigation and is unable to pronounce judgments of guilt or innocence, focuses on a key figure said to have played a central role in the organ operation, says the Guardian.

 

A KLA medical commander based in Albania, Shaip Muja was and remains a close confidante of Thaci's. Muja is currently a political adviser in the office of the prime minister, with responsibility for health.

 

"We have uncovered numerous convergent indications of Muja's central role [in] international networks, comprising human traffickers, brokers of illicit surgical procedures, and other perpetrators of organized crime," the Marty report states.

 

Marty estimates that 40 captives survived being held prisoner in Albania, and are alive today. Others are thought to have been killed, including "scores" who he says were taken across the border after the war ended.

 

Among the makeshift prisons where captives were held, Marty identifies the "famed Yellow House", near the town of Burrel.

 

Link.

 

This is hardly news for people aware of the KLA's rather incredulous activities during and following the conclusion of the Kosovo War in '99. But, what I'm rather interested in is people's perspectives on whether Western governments and the Council of Europe will actively try to arrest Thaçi for his actions. Considering that the Serbian government is still under some influence from Russia (although not as much as before), will the US still act as Kosovo's ultimate protector to ensure its dominance in the region? Has Serbia done enough over the past decade, particularly in its path towards acceptance within the EU, to warrant some support from the US in an issue with Kosovo, ensuring that Thaçi is fairly tried and convicted?

 

Basically, will the West convict Thaçi if found guilty, or will they try and prove that he's innocent to protect their interests in the Balkans?

 

I know that there's a Debate and Discussion section, but it'll probably end up having only a handful of replies, so it might receive more discussion in Gen Chat. Although, if it gets to the point where people go way off the track, then feel free to move it, mods.

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Struff Bunstridge

...or nothing for six hours.

 

Someone might actually take time to read it in D&D?

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Chorup

The west support Albania and Kosovo's independence for the simple reason that they attempt to use Albania as a puppet in the Balkans. The KLA are nothing but a bunch of scumbags who are fighting for a non-existent cause and it would be very fair to label them as outright terrorists, not 'freedom fighters.' The Albanians worship the west for obvious reasons (bombing serbia during the whole Kosovo dispute, and siding with the Albanian terrorists once again in Macedonia during the 2001 conflict). They even go as far to erect a statue of George Bush in some towns which is a joke.

I didn't read the entire article but I get the basic gist of it. The probability of the west convicting somebody like Thaci is quite small from how I see it. If they were willing to support terrorists for so called 'improved rights' or such, I find it hard to believe they will finally take action and lock up some of these criminals.

 

I think all nations within the Balkans need to work together to stamp out this kind of terrorism as it will only destabilize the whole area. The problem there however is that it is almost impossible to deal with corrupt governments that have the same motives as these terrorist groups.

In general, countries in the region need to take a harder stance and not allow traitors and even, in this case, Albanian extremists to publicly voice their intentions without receiving some kind of punishment.

 

I might have headed off topic but it is a joke really, but a sad reality that today we find the big powers looking out for their own interests instead of protecting and preserving democracy. We all know America and Russia are fighting over power in the Balkans and it's a real shame that they will exploit the nations within only to widen their influence and power over one another.

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Mainland Marauder
...or nothing for six hours.

 

Someone might actually take time to read it in D&D?

I would agree. tl;dr for many people on the internets, regrettably.

 

Thus, Debates & Discussion it is. As such it is now subject to the usual standards expected in that forum.

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