Albanian PM asks Council of Europe to dismiss organ trafficking claims, points at Russian influence

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Prime Minister Edi Rama called for the withdrawal of a controversial report alleging Albanian and Kosovar involvement in organ trafficking at the end of the Kosovo-Serbia war during a speech at the Council of Europe leaders summit in Reykjavik.

In his speech, Rama defended Hashim Thaci and asked the assembly to withdraw a 2011 report penned by Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty, which made unsubstantiated claims that Kosovo and Albania had engaged in organ trafficking amid the conflict. The Marty report was adopted by the plenary, despite no hard evidence supporting the claims.

“The Assembly of the Council of Europe has a moral obligation to correct every error. In this case, it must withdraw the report that falsely labelled Albania as one of the grounds for organ trafficking by the Kosovo Liberation Army,” said Rama.

He added: “I cannot stay still in this summit because the injustice towards the KLA and its former leader Hashim Tha?i started precisely here, under the malevolent influence of its former member at that time, the Russian Federation.”

In 2010, Carla del Ponte, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, alleged that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had trafficked the organs of Serbian nationals who remained in the country after the end of the war.

The allegations were published in a book, and the CoE appointed Marty to author a report.

It alleges that dozens of predominantly Serb captives were taken to a “yellow house” near Burrel in central Albania from June 1999 to May 2000, where their organs were systematically removed. The organs would have then been transported to the airport or the coast and sent abroad.

At the time, Matti Raatikainen, head of the war crimes unit of EULEX, the European Law and Justice Mission in Kosovo, stressed that “the fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever in this case”.

Over the years, politicians and those investigating the case have also pointed out the significant logistical challenges behind such an operation, considering the roads in the region at the time were either non-existent or would take days to pass, making transporting organs extremely difficult.

Rama continued that Thaci is now being tried by a special court in The Hague, set up by the democratic world but supported by the report, which he said “was diabolically sponsored by the parties supporting Vladimir Putin in the General Assembly of the Council of Europe.”

An EU task force investigating Marty’s claims found evidence of war crimes but not organ trafficking. It saw the establishment of Special Chambers in The Hague in 2015 to investigate former KLA members, much to the anger of Kosovo, who questioned why a similar structure was not set up for Serbia, which instigated the violence.

The claims, he said, are “totally unfounded” and constitute a “criminal campaign to smear Albania and Kosovo.”

(Alice Taylor

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