Witnesses Intimidated or Killed in Kosovo

Witnesses Intimidated or Killed in Kosovo

The PACE winter session's passing a resolution on the crimes committed by the Kosovo Separatists re-energized the debates over who and how should investigate the atrocities. Critics of the EULEX hold that – to unearth all facts and to make all criminals face justice – the investigation should not be left entirely to the EU mission. The view predictably meets with opposition in Brussels where EULEX is touted as the only agency fit for the task. Somehow, over the past couple of years in Kosovo EULEX was allowed to overshadow all other international bodies including the UN. NATO as the force sharing the objectives with the EU in Kosovo seems to be the only exception from the rule.

Kosovo premier Hashim Thaci and Albanian premier Sali Berisha are the key figures implicated by Dick Marty's investigation which served as the basis for the PACE resolution. Berisha planned to come to Strasbourg on January 27 to protest his innocence and to suggest that the ICTY take over the investigation, but the visit was canceled on the eve of the date. Officially explained away as a result of the brewing political tensions in Albania, the change of plans is more realistically attributable to the fact that Western patrons advised Berisha against the trip as the passing of the PACE resolution was imminent. On top of that, the idea to forward the case to the ICTY had to be dropped as the West hurriedly put together the alternative plan to enable the EU to monopolize the potentially sensational investigation.

Brussels was prompt to respond – a spokesperson for EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Margaret Ashton said the EU, the European Commission, and EULEX would probe into the facts invoked in Dick Marty's report and the PACE resolution.

The EU claim to the monopoly on the investigation in Kosovo did not generate universal enthusiasm. Notably, Dick Marty is among those who call into question the ability of EULEX in its current shape to launch the proper investigation. In Marty's view, the key problem is the lack of witness protection in Kosovo: every time the investigation implicates politicians or top figures from the criminal hierarchy, testimony becomes impossible to obtain as witnesses are intimidated or killed. Marty is therefore convinced that an ad hoc law-enforcement agency must be created outside of Kosovo for the probe.

Considering that over the past 2-3 years the EU agencies have built close and mutually beneficial ties with Hashim Thaci's Kosovo administration and the Democratic Party of Kosovo, one must be naïve to believe that Brussels actually wants the criminal activities of the leaders of the pseudo-independent Kosovo – the human organs trafficking, kidnappings, etc – to be exposed.

Human Rights Watch immediately expressed support for Marty's report and criticized the plan to cede to EULEX total control over the probe into the Kosovo criminal activities. The group also upheld the establishment of a new intentional body distinct from the EULEX and the ICTY to handle the problem.

Human Rights Watch has serious reasons to confront Brussels over Kosovo. It was the first and likely the only NGO to publicly confirm the information on human organs trafficking in Kosovo presented in Carla del Ponte's book. In Aplil, 2008 – just days after del Ponte's The Hunt saw the light of day - Human Rights Watch addressed Thaci and Berisha with a demand to open an internationally supervised investigation. Both leaders ignored the message and rejected del Ponte's claims which Berisha even described as a novel akin to Agatha Chritie's. Shortly thereafter Human Rights Watch program adviser Fred Abrahams reaffirmed that del Ponte's revelations were trustworthy and urged the administrations of Kosovo and Albania to prove their commitment to law by duly investigating the crimes. Moreover, Abrahams said that the information contained in The Hunt that several hundred Serbs had been forced to be organ donors was far from complete. Evidently, since the time Human Rights Watch has not discovered any previously unknown reasons to believe in the innocence of Thaci and Berisha or to trust the EULEX which never stopped backing them. Thus, the group's suggestion to outsource the investigation to a new international agency stems from an in-depth understanding of the situation. To have the agency established, the issue must draw attention on the highest international level and the EU investigative monopoly in Kosovo must be eroded. No doubt, the Russian diplomacy should put both tasks on its to-do list.