(BELGRADE) – Serbian activists insist the real revelation in a Council of Europe report on Kosovo aren’t the allegations of organ trading but the fact that crimes were committed under the noses of the international community.
“Dick Marty (who wrote the report) is the first representative of an international organisation that said that serious human right violations were happening in the presence of international forces and institutions,” Serbia’s leading human rights activist Natasa Kandic of the Humanitarian Law Centre told AFP.
“All abductions of Serbs and Romas took place in the presence of KFOR, United Nations institutions and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) institutions and no one reacted,” she stressed.
Marty’s report, which is due to be discussed by the Council of Europe Tuesday, presents allegations of abductions, disappearances, executions, organ trafficking, and other serious crimes coordinated by former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who are now leading Kosovo politicians like Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
Marty specifically writes that a group linked to Thaci killed Serb prisoners held in special detention camps in Albania to extract organs and sell them on the international black market.
The report also establishes that the KLA has at least six illegal detention camps where Serbs, Roma and Albanians suspected of collaboration with Serbian troops.
“The international actors chose to turn a blind eye to the war crimes of the KLA, placing a premium instead on achieving some degree of short-term stability,” the Swiss senator writes.
According to human rights groups here, some 500 Serbs and Roma and 1,400 ethnic Albanians are still reported as missing following the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.
“We were stunned because we could not believe that at the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century we could not establish the fate of innocent people who were not killed during the fighting in Kosovo but after the arrival of the international forces,” Verica Tomanovic, the chairwoman of the Serbian association of families of people missing in Kosovo, told AFP.
Her husband Andrija, a doctor, was pushed into a car and driven off by unknown men in front of KFOR soldiers in June 1999 at the clinic he was working in, and never seen again.
“We only ask the truth and we call on the Council of Europe to support Marty’s initiative to establish the truth about the fate of our loved ones who stayed in Kosovo relying on international protocols and resolutions that were not respected,” she said.
“We are looking for our children, brothers and husbands. This is the time for Europe to react,” she pleaded.
Kandic stressed that “from a human rights point of view, the main issue is the abduction, the illegal transfer of people from Kosovo in the presence of the international community.
“This report must have consequences: a serious judicial investigation is the next step,” she added, calling on the UN to appoint a special independent prosecutor to open a probe.
Kandic also slammed the Serbian government’s reaction to the report, accusing Belgrade of abusing it for its own political reasons.
“It is not a Serbian victory but an opportunity to warn all sides that Serbia and Kosovo should face up to the past,” she said.
“We have mass graves in Serbia and if Belgrade wants to fight for Serbian victims now is the time to give information of mass graves of Albanians here,” Kandic said.
At the end of the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo, Serbian security forces under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic removed civilian remains from Kosovo and reburied them elsewhere in Serbia in a bid to hide war crimes.
More than 800 bodies of Kosovo Albanians were exhumed from three mass graves found in Serbia in 2001.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, despite fierce opposition from Belgrade.
The move has been recognised by 72 countries, including the United States and most European Union members.