Who is K144?
- Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo by Dick Marty
Council of Europe, draft report, December 2010
At the end of last year it was reported that in the late 1990s Hashim Thaci, the prime minister of Kosovo, together with other Kosovo Albanian political leaders, had traded in the organs of Serb prisoners held in neighbouring Albania. Some papers implied that organs had been harvested while the prisoners were still alive. The allegations were based on a report commissioned by the Council of Europe and written by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator. They are quite distinct from the charges brought against several people currently on trial in Kosovo, accused of swindling kidney donors of several different nationalities out of money promised to them for giving up their organs. The criminal groups responsible in that case are said to have connections with the political leadership, but it’s unfortunate that Marty allows the two different sets of allegations to seem to lend support to each other.
Vol. 33 No. 5 · 3 March 2011
Geoffrey Nice writes about the Swiss senator Dick Marty’s report to the Council of Europe on the inhuman treatment of prisoners by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which may have included the murder of some healthy prisoners in order to extract and sell their vital organs (LRB, 3 February). Nice, the former deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – which was responsible for the monstrous five-year-long prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic that sent the defendant to his grave before he could complete his defence – gives the impression that he has demolished the Marty report by refuting some Serbian newspaper reports about a mysterious ‘witness known as K144’.
K144 is a straw man. There is no mention of him in the Marty report. The report, mandated and adopted by an overwhelming majority of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, makes it clear that numerous witnesses, mostly ethnic Albanians, were interviewed and would be willing to testify publicly to the alleged crimes if they did not fear for their lives. Nice is disingenuous when he criticises the Marty report for not giving the names of these witnesses. Marty will only pass names to judicial authorities with a credible witness protection programme. This caution is absolutely necessary given Kosovo’s record of large-scale witness intimidation and even murder, which, for example, obliged the ICTY to acquit the clan leader Ramush Haradinaj for lack of evidence. Nice merely says that he has been ‘accused of witness tampering’. (Haradinaj is currently facing retrial.)
The basic problem is that there is no judicial authority willing and able to investigate the numerous criminal activities linked to the KLA. The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), sent to try to impose some sort of judicial order, suffers from a dependence on unreliable interpreters and a fear of arousing the hostility of the local Albanian population. The result has been impunity for KLA leaders, notably the US favourite, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
Nice doesn’t conclude by calling for a proper judicial investigation, but by suggesting that Thaci should resign, apparently in order to make dealing with Kosovo less embarrassing for its Western sponsors. Nice’s negative view of the Marty report is consistent with his former role at the ICTY, which has served primarily to justify Nato’s bombing war of 1999 by criminalising Serbs and finding excuses for the crimes of the other parties to the tragic conflicts that destroyed the former Yugoslavia.
Vol. 33 No. 6 · 17 March 2011
Your letters page of 3 March certainly raised some laughs. Diana Johnstone’s ‘monstrous five-year-long prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic that sent the defendant to his grave before he could complete his defence’ is a classic. But it was almost capped by Edward Pearce’s John Major, who ‘turned the Gulf War to good use by securing the Kurdish enclaves’. Could this be the same Major who petulantly proclaimed, ‘I don’t recall asking the Kurds to mount this particular insurrection,’ and had to be dragged by the media into joining George Bush Senior in a face-saving operation? It’s a long time since politicians were given such an easy time in your pages.