Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kosovo: Call for probe into allegations of human organ trafficking

UN - The top United Nations official in Kosovo today called for an urgent investigation into allegations that members of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) trafficked in human organs in 1999, when it was pitted against ethnic Serbs and the Yugoslav army.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe urged such an enquiry last month after receiving a report from its Special Rapporteur Dick Marty on alleged criminal activities by the KLA.

“In my view, this Council of Europe report needs to be taken seriously and an investigation launched as a matter of priority in the interests of all,” he told the Security Council. “Of course it is crucial that adequate protection be provided to all witnesses.”

Mr. Zannier was presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which ran Kosovo from 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid the bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians until 2008 when Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Serbia has not recognized it.

In his report, Mr. Ban notes that political developments in Kosovo over the past three months, in particular the 12 December Assembly elections, slowed down momentum generated by the European Union’s declared readiness to facilitate dialogue. “It is my hope that the period ahead will see renewed momentum in moving the dialogue process forward,” he writes.

“Although it is regrettable that, as of the date of this report, representatives of Pristina and Belgrade have not yet met, I am pleased that the European Union representatives appointed to facilitate the talks have held several preparatory meetings with the sides,” he says, referring to the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia and reiterating the UN’s commitment to continue working closely with the EU in bringing the process forward.

The Assembly elections, organized by the Kosovo authorities without UNMIK involvement, were held in a peaceful atmosphere, but Mr. Zannier said local and international observers reported “widespread irregularities and manipulation of votes.” He added that he hoped that with the elections now over he hoped a new Kosovo Government “will be sufficiently strong and stable to engage authoritatively in a substantive dialogue with Belgrade.”

Unresolved issues in northern Kosovo continue to be a key challenge to long-term stability due to the opposition of Serbs there to engagement with the Kosovo institutions, Mr. Zannier said.

“There will be no long-term stability and development in Kosovo without a successful process of reconciliation among the communities,” he added. “Therefore, there is a pressing need to launch a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and work towards establishing viable cooperation and lasting peace and security.”