Albania allows EU to investigate organ snatch charges

Reuters News
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Posted: May 10, 2012 7:38 PM
Albania allows EU to investigate organ snatch charges

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania on Thursday voted to allow the European Union to investigate accusations that ethnic Albanian fighters sold organs from captured Serbs during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

The allegations surfaced in 2010 when Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty said Kosovo Liberation Army fighters transported Serb prisoners to northern Albania where some had their organs removed and traded.

The alleged crimes happened during the Kosovo conflict when Kosovo Albanian guerrillas attacked Serb troops, including from their safe havens in Albania.

In 1999 NATO launched a bombing campaign to stop atrocities by Serb security forces against ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo. A United Nations administration took over Kosovo and it formally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

In a show of support for their ethnic brethren in Kosovo last year, all Albanian political parties criticized Marty's charges saying they were fabricated by Serbia.

But on Thursday Albania's parliament agreed to allow the independent EU investigation, with 127 votes in favor in the 140-seat chamber by lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Socialist Party.

Albania has not allowed Serb prosecutors to investigate, saying an earlier United Nations team could not find evidence to support the allegations.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has denied the charges. Marty said fighters loyal to Thaci, one of the main KLA leaders, had abducted and killed prisoners and harvested their organs.

The European Union's Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) said the vote would "allow the SITF to autonomously conduct investigative activities on Albanian territory, where Council of Europe Rapporteur Dick Marty believes most of the alleged crimes took place."

"The broad-based political support for this initiative is a strong statement of Albania's commitment to accountability and the rule of law," said the EU's lead prosecutor Clint Williamson.

(Reporting By Benet Koleka; Editing by Janet Lawrence)