Grisly Organ Harvesting Crimes: Is Justice going to be served?
March 2011 | Vojin Joksimovich
Posted on 04 April 2011 02:11:20 by Ravnagora
In my December 2010 essay “Amorality of US Kosovo Policy: Friends with the Snake”, I published reactions to the Council of Europe’s (CoE) 27-page report authored by the Swiss-Italian politician, senator and prosecuting lawyer Dick Marty. The report, which is the culmination of his two-year investigation, claimed that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) thugs headed by the current Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci, known as “the Snake”, abducted mostly Kosovo Serbs and also some Albanian so-called “collaborators,” transported them to northern Albania, murdered them, extracted their kidneys and other organs, and sold them on the black market. These macabre Nazi/Croatian style crimes were covered up by leading international organizations such as the UN, NATO, and the OSCE as well as the governments of leading western countries. NATO’s secret documents as well as a UN report have been leaked out clearly demonstrating that both of those international organizations, as well as several governments – particularly those of the U.S. and Germany, had full knowledge of these grisly crimes and opted to cover them up. While a EULEX investigation is being launched, it will focus on the grisly crimes committed by the Snake and his thugs but will not include an investigation of those who enabled these crimes by covering them up for a decade. In addition, it is doubtful that EULEX is capable of conducting an all-encompassing inquiry. Hence, the most important question needs to be posed: Is justice going to be served?
CoE Session: 169:8 Votes
On January 25, 2011 the CoE supported Dick Marty’s resolution demanding an investigation into the macabre organ harvesting crimes with a vote of 169:8. The resolution calls for EULEX to continue its investigation. It also calls for the governments of Serbia, Albania and the Kosovo institutions to fully cooperate. Amendments proposed by the Albanian deputies were overwhelmingly rejected, while two amendments proposed by Marty were accepted. His first amendment seeks clarification dealing with EULEX competencies, or some other judicial body with a mandate to conduct investigations, with regard to territorial and timeline aspects of all crimes committed in Kosovo. The second amendment specifies what is expected from the Albanian authorities and the Kosovo institutions. On his part, Marty committed to submit all the evidence he has accumulated providing that witness protection is guaranteed. He indicated that he has found credible witnesses who have nothing to do with Serbia but who are afraid of the Kosovo judiciary and added that the witness protection being offered is worthless. Serbian president Tadic addressed the CoE session, demanding an investigation, and pointed out that there is no institution with a mandate to carry out an investigation of this kind and that such an institution should be immediately created. Sweeping the gruesome crimes under the carpet is not an option.
Dick Marty feels that EULEX is powerless to investigate these grisly crimes. “An ad-hoc judicial structure needs to be created-specifically established to investigate the organ trafficking and located outside of Kosovo-which would have the right to apply measures to protect witnesses and their families-not just during the process but afterwards as well. The witnesses have so much to say that their lives would not be worth much afterwards if their identities were revealed.” On March 10, 2011 Marty was scheduled to appear before the European Parliament (EP) Foreign Affairs Committee.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) are the only two western-oriented international human rights organizations operating worldwide. They perform complementary roles with the HRW’s main products being crisis-directed research and lengthy reports. Their European director Benjamin Ward gave an interview to Radio Free Europe. In it he advocated for the EU to appoint a highly specialized prosecutor with the investigation taking place outside of the Balkans in order to protect the witnesses. The HRW doesn’t believe that EULEX is capable of conducting a proper investigation given their track record, including the fact that the organ harvesting was known about for a long time. Hence, HRW and Dick Marty are in full agreement that EULEX is not the organization to conduct an investigation into these crimes.
Despite these warnings from Marty and HRW, the EU has asked EULEX to conduct the investigation, has asked Marty to provide his evidence, and is negotiating ways in which to protect the witnesses. EULEX has about 20 investigators and 40 judges, and the EU is ready to send more. The EULEX prosecutors have already initiated a preliminary investigation and can start immediately once they receive the evidence collected by Marty.
NATO’s Secret Documents
The CoE report is further supported by NATO’s secret documents tagged “USA-KFOR,” which were leaked to the British The Guardian and published the day the CoE debated the Marty Report. According to the documents, Thaci “the Snake” has been identified as one of the “biggest fish” of organized crime in Kosovo. He was the head of a “mafia-like” network responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war. Xhavit Halili, a member of the Drenica gang and former KLA logistics head and a high level official in Thaci’s party is identified for the same crimes as Thaci. Halili, described as “the power behind Hashim Thaci” and Thaci’s chief “political and financial adviser,” carries a Czech 9mm pistol. He is also implicated in two murders in Albania including that of the young Tirana journalist Ali Uke, who shared an apartment with Thaci.
It has become more than obvious that the irresponsible push to recognize Kosovo’s independence in 2008 came against the background of a full awareness of the Snake’s and his thugs’ criminal track records. Nonetheless, the western powers preferred to turn a blind eye to the Kosovo reality and what was originating from Kosovo.
UN 2003 Investigation
In this era of WikiLeaks a confidential UN report dated October 30, 2003 was leaked. The report was generated by UNMIK (the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo). TV channel France 24 was one of several media outlets that revealed the content of this confidential document. Even this author managed to get a copy of the 29-page report. The report originated from Eamonn Smyth, Head of the ICTY Mission in Skopje and Pristina and was addressed to Patrick Lopez Terres, Chief of ICTY Investigations. The report reveals that 100-300 (mostly Serbian) men were abducted and taken by trucks/vans to detention facilities in the Albanian towns of Kukes and Tropoje. Beginning in August of 1999 some of these captives (24-100) were transferred from Northern Albania to secondary detention facilities (private homes and rough industrial compounds) in central Albania, mainly near the towns of Burrel and Peshkopi. Then they were moved to a private house south of Burrel that was set up as a makeshift clinic. There, medical equipment and personnel were used to extract body organs from the abductees, who then died. Their remains were buried nearby. The organs were transported to Rinas airport near Tirana. It should be noted that the airport was under NATO control. A small number of female captives from Kosovo, Albania and Eastern Europe were also taken to the clinic. In addition to abductees taken to Albania alive, an unknown number of bodies of Serbian civilians killed in Kosovo were transported to Albania and buried in remote locations. The last delivery of captives was reported in the spring or early summer of 2000.
The report identifies at least eight sources, all ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Montenegro, who served in the KLA. In the report they were listed with numbers as their identities were withheld. Four, who directly participated in the transport of at least 90 Serbs, provided very detailed accounts of their roles, including the exact dates. Of these, three sources delivered captives to the house/clinic south of Burrel. Two participated in the disposal of human remains and one who has participated in the delivery of body parts to the Rinas airport. The transports and surgical procedures were carried out with the knowledge and/or active involvement of mid-level and senior KLA officers. Doctors from Kosovo as well as an Arab doctor were involved. The operation was supported by men with links to the Albanian secret police operatives of the government of Sali Berisha. Maps of the site locations were included. 10 Serbian victims were identified by name.
In an interview with France 24, Dick Marty claimed that he was unaware of the document but the events described were known to him. The French news station asserted that the UNMIK report was never forwarded to EULEX and reminded the viewers that while these grisly crimes were taking place, tens of thousands of NATO soldiers, UNMIK and OSCE personnel were charged with the responsibility of protecting the civilians.
UN Security Council Session
A Kosovo session of the UN Security Council (UNSC) took place on February 16, 2011. UNMIK chief Lamberto Zanier submitted his quarterly report in which he described Kosovo as politically unstable and insecure. He requested that an all-encompassing investigation based on the Marty Report be given due priority. In addition, he expressed hope that the new Kosovo government, now in the making, would consist of people with “clean hands”. Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic requested a UN inquiry. Jeremic described Marty’s report as “deeply disturbing” and suggested that a EULEX investigation was not enough because the allegations involved locations outside of Europe such as Asia and Africa. “The solution,” he said, “lies in establishing an ad hoc investigating mechanism created by-and accountable to-the Security Council.”
However, U.S. envoy Rosemary Di Carlo asserted that a EULEX investigation was sufficient: “We do not believe that an ad hoc UN mechanism is necessary or appropriate,” she said. In this assertion, she was supported by the UK and German representatives, while Jeremic received support from Russia, China, South Africa and Gabon. The U.S. seems to be against an ad-hoc court in order to avoid “equalizing” the Kosovo Albanian crimes with those committed by the Serbs and being dealt with by the ICTY.
Impact in Kosovo
The Marty Report has degraded Thaci’s credibility as well as Kosovo’s international reputation. Thaci has never been so weak politically. He has also been weakened by his row with Fatmir Limaj, the outgoing Kosovo minister of transportation. The timing of leaked NATO and UN documents could be interpreted as an attempt by Thaci’s former sponsors to tell him that his time is up and that he should withdraw from the political scene. Thaci was experiencing difficulty forming a new coalition government after the December 12, 2010 elections which were marred with irregularities. His party (the Democratic Party of Kosovo – PDK) won 34 seats in the new 120-member parliament. Other big parties, such as the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) with 27 seats and the Self-Determination party with 14, indicated that they wanted Thaci out of any future coalition government even if his party (PDK) stays. Hence, Thaci had to rely on small parties to secure the majority. At the same time, some western ambassadors suggested that the new government should not include those subjected to criminal probes. Thaci has been forced to drop his loyalist Jakup Krasniqi, the acting Kosovo president who empowered him with a mandate to form a new government, in favor of Behgjet Isa Pacolli, the world’s richest Albanian who made his fortune in Switzerland. In exchange, Pacolli’s party, the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), will enter into Thaci’s coalition. Thaci has also offered a position of VP in the Kosovo government (one of four) to the leader of the Serb Independent Liberal Party (SLS),
Slobodan Petrovic, including the three ministries (the same as the AKR). In addition, other minorities—the Turks, Ashkali, Egyptians—will be represented in Thaci’s government with two ministries. Thus it appears that Thaci has been successful in forming the new Kosovo government. It remains to be seen if Pacolli will get enough votes for the presidency.
Who is Pacolli?
The world richest Albanian, second in a family of 10 children, left Kosovo penniless for Germany at the age of 17. After military service, he was employed by an Austrian company, but two years later moved to Switzerland, joining a Swiss company he got to know in Moscow. In 1990 he founded Mabetex Project Management, a construction company based in Lugano, Switzerland. This company evolved into a large business group called the Mabetex Group, which handled many international construction jobs in Russia, Kazakhstan, Italy and Uzbekistan. Pacolli remains the President and CEO.
Offices of Mabetex Group were searched in 1999 at Russia’s request and he was questioned by then Swiss State Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte. In June of 2000 the Swiss authorities charged him with money laundering and providing bribes to his Russian counterparts worth $4 million. The proceedings in Russia were closed in December 2000 and in Switzerland in March 2002. It was a corruption scandal close to then Russian President Yeltsin and several officials suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for the Kremlin reconstruction job.
Pacolli had been actively lobbying for Kosovo’s independence since 2004/2005. In 2006 he founded the New Kosovo Alliance party (AKR); in 2007 his party came in third in the parliamentary elections. It has been reported by the Finnish media that former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who was appointed by the UN as Special Envoy for Kosovo on November 14, 2005, was bribed by the Albanian mafia (some speculated that Pacolli was involved). Ahtisaari delivered the Kosovo Independence recommendation and was even awarded the Nobel Peace Price for 2008. When Carla Del Ponte published her 2009 book “Madame Prosecutor”, Pacolli initiated a legal procedure against it-requesting a ban on the book being sold and distributed.
Since Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February of 2008, Pacolli has been lobbying many countries to recognize Kosovo. The Maldives Parliament launched an investigation on the basis of a suspicion that its government officials were involved in taking a bribe of $2 million to recognize Kosovo. According to the Maldivian media, the government officials received the bribe from Pacolli. The Maldives became the 55th of the 192 U.N. members to recognize Kosovo.
Pacolli might be an angel in comparison to Thaci. However, he is obviously not reluctant to use his wealth to bribe officials in order to advance his and other Albanian causes. As such, he is likely to be acceptable in the West, but unlikely to be acceptable in Moscow. Despite having a Russian wife, he has lobbied for the Nabucco gas pipeline and Iran-Turkey-Greece-Albania-Kosovo pipeline which is contrary to Russian interests in the Balkans.
Berisha in Trouble Again
In addition to Thaci’s problems in Kosovo, the Berisha regime in Albania is in trouble again. Mass demonstrations broke out in Tirana after it was revealed that Berisha’s Deputy Prime Minister “in secretly taped talks, openly negotiating the level of bribes to back the construction of a new hydroelectric power station”. Police reacted with violence killing three people with some 150 injured. The opposition, the Socialist party, is demanding early elections over corruption and vote rigging in the 2009 general election. Berisha’s services for supporting the Washington agenda in the Balkans were rewarded with Albania’s membership in NATO. The Albanian opposition continues to hold anti-government protests ignoring international pressure for a compromise.
It should be recalled that the BBC reported on March 23, 1992 that Berisha, who later became the president of Albania, said: “There is no Albania without Kosovo and vice versa.” He was re-elected in 1997 but had to resign because of the collapse of a fraudulent Ponzi type scheme, which led to anarchy and killings necessitating that Italian troops intervene with UN approval. He has openly supported the Kosovo Albanian drive for independence with the ultimate aim to create a Greater Albania. His rule also led to freedom of movement for mafia operations. He gave his family farm to the KLA for military training purposes thus enabling the KLA to wage a war of insurrection in Kosovo. He maintained close links with Thaci and must have known about the organ harvesting scandal and may have even actively participated in it. Most of the KLA crimes took place in Albania, but Berisha has refused to cooperate with the prior investigations.
Albania has long been known as a hot spot in the illicit trade of human organs. A 2004 report written by the Greek Embassy in Tirana detailed the illegal Albanian organ trade operating since 1994. The report says that children were snatched from their families in various parts of Albania or sold, in many cases, for the price of a TV set. The victims were taken to clinics in Albania or to a clinic in Yiannitsa in Central Greece, while their organs were smuggled out of Albania and Greece and sold in Italy and France.
The Swiss media has been reporting on the KLA activities in Switzerland. Geneva’s Le Temp revealed that the Snake lived in Switzerland between 1994-1998. He had political asylum status but travelled to Kosovo 5-6 times per year in violation of Swiss law. The paper identified five other KLA members who were collecting contributions from the Albanian Diaspora and money laundering.
A Zurich paper focused on Xhavit Haliti, Kosovo deputy parliament speaker, and his symbiotic relationship with Thaci in an article titled “The most dangerous Kosovo man with Swiss past.” Haliti came to Switzerland in 1986 and was linked with money laundering and trading with weapons, drugs and women. He was in business with a company controlled by jihadists.
The Swiss media predicts that the foreign affairs committees will address the Swiss Kosovo policies. The Swiss parliament adopted a resolution calling for a neutral international court to investigate corruption in Kosovo as well as in EULEX.
EULEX Investigation to follow ICTY footsteps?
Arguments have been made by both Dick Marty and the HRW, as well as the Serbian foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, as to why EULEX cannot deliver justice. Nonetheless, the U.S./EU have opted for EULEX. What is left is for the UNSC is to attempt to find a way to constrain the U.S./EU from writing rules aimed at justifying flawed U.S./NATO Balkan policies rather than serving justice. In other words, the model of a political court of dubious legality such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) should not be allowed to be replicated. ICTY destroyed the evidence collected in 2003. Four critical books have been written on the subject of the ICTY: Diana Johnstone’s Fools Crusade (2002); Michael Mandel’s How America Gets Away with Murder (2004); Peter Brock’s Media Cleansing (2005); and John Laughland’s Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of Justice (2007). Laughland focuses on “The Corruption of International Justice.” He stresses that the ICTY is a political court with explicit political objectives that run counter to the requirements of justice.
Should UN/NATO be investigated?
As discussed above, both the UN and NATO were fully aware of the role the Snake and his thugs had played in these macabre crimes but chose to cover it up. Therefore, a true investigation should include those two organizations as well. However, it is extremely unlikely that this would take place as these organizations enjoy the status of impunity. In 1999, Michael Mandel, professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, led an international effort to have NATO prosecuted for crimes against humanity committed during the Kosovo war. Although meticulously documented, his case didn’t get anywhere.
It should be of interest to at least two countries, i.e. the U.S. and Germany, which played a pivotal part in selecting the KLA and its leaders with known criminal records as partners in order to amputate Serbia. In England, a parliamentary committee is investigating why Great Britain went to war in Iraq. Tony Blair testified twice before the committee. There will be no indictments, but the British public will find out why their prime minister opted for the war, ignoring the will of the public. A similar type of investigation should be conducted by the U.S. Congress with a broad objective of establishing how the U.S. ended up with the war in Kosovo. As part of that type of investigation, issues such as choosing a partnership with Hashim Thaci and his thugs as opposed to supporting pacifist Ibrahim Rugova should be addressed. An essential part of such an investigation should focus on the macabre organ harvesting case with the associated cover-ups, which have further eroded U.S. credibility in the world.
“The Culture of Impunity, NATO Style”
Diana Johnstone has written a piece with the above quoted title, “The Culture of Impunity, NATO Style”. She expressed an opinion that “the Marty Report appears fated to join the Goldstone Report on Gaza in the limbo of good intentions” and pointed to the London Review of Books (LRB), which chose to publish a five-page review of the Marty Report by no other than Sir Geoffrey Nice. His rise to fame resulted from the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic at the ICTY. He blamed Milosevic for all of Former Yugoslavia’s ills and “succeeded in sending Milosevic to his grave before he could present his defense, thus sparing the three judges the task of finding excuses to convict him, as they were hired to do.” Dennis MacShane, a former Labor Minister for Europe, also targeted the Marty Report, with an attack-dog type article published in the Independent and the Wall Street Journal. He was suspended from the Labor Party pending investigation into padding his expense account by 125,000 pounds.
Sir Nice compared Thaci with Djukanovic in Montenegro, who has decided to step down and cease to hold a political office in order to facilitate Montenegro’s entry into the EU. Djukanovic is famous for his grand-scale cigarette smuggling empire, which led to an indictment in Italy. Johnstone read Nice’s comparison “as acknowledgement that both NATO protégés are crooks to some degree or other, who were useful in wresting their lands away from the Serbs, but now had best step back to make way for more presentable puppets. Being prosecuted for those wrongdoings, whatever they may be is, however, out of the question.”
Johnstone ends on the following note: “Human rights campaigners in the self-righteous Western democracies are intransigent when it comes to ending what they call ‘the culture of impunity’ so long as it involves, say, Africa. But their own impunity and that of their clients seems more secure than ever.”
*Vojin Joksimovich has authored three books about the Balkans and some 80 articles/blogs