Sat, May 14, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Serb presses UN to back Kosovo organ theft probe

RECONCILIATION:Serbia called for an international inquiry amid a Council of Europe report outlining abductions and organ trafficking of Serb inmates

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

There can be no lasting peace between ethnic Serbs and Albanians until a war crimes inquiry is held into allegations that organs were cut out of hundreds of Kosovo Serb prisoners, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said on Thursday.

EU nations are involved in a new battle with Russia, China and Serbia at the UN Security Council over whether the Kosovo organ trafficking scandal should be investigated by an EU mission or a UN-mandated inquiry.

Making a new appeal for a UN-sanctioned investigation, Jeremic said: “We will not rest or retreat until the full truth about what happened is uncovered.”

He said an international inquiry would be “an integral part of the reconciliation process” after Kosovo’s violent split with Serbia and “is itself a prerequisite to establishing a lasting peace between Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans.”

A Council of Europe rights rapporteur on human rights Dick Marty last year outlined abductions, disappearances, executions and organ trafficking of Serbian prisoners taken to camps in Albania during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

Marty’s report linked Hashim Thaci, now Kosovo’s prime minister, and other former leaders of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, to the organ trafficking.

Lamberto Zannier, UN special representative to Kosovo, also told the 15-nation Security Council that “while these allegations are pending, it will be even more difficult for reconciliation to take root” in Kosovo.

He said a “thorough, impartial and independent investigation” was essential, but backed an investigation launched by the EU law and order mission in Kosovo, EULEX.

Britain, France and Germany all said at a Security Council debate on Kosovo that the mission had the capability and jurisdiction to handle the inquiry.

However, Russia joined its close ally Serbia in demanding a UN Security Council mandate for the investigation. Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said EULEX has never carried out such an inquiry.

“We are convinced that carrying out a detailed independent and depoliticized investigation will be in the interests of establishing truth and reconciliation,” Churkin added.

He said Russia would raise the topic again at the Security Council. China also backed Serbia’s claims.

Kosovo separatists launched a secession war against Serbia in 1999 and after NATO forces intervened to halt a Serbian onslaught and formally declared its independence in 2008.

About 75 countries, including most EU nations and the US, now recognize Kosovo.

However, although Kosovo and Serbia have launched tentative normalization talks, the organ trafficking dispute is one of several sources of tension between majority ethnic Albanians and Serbs who have remained in Kosovo.

The Kosovo government accuses Serbs of blocking attempts to establish a central government. The Serbs accuse the ethnic Albanian majority of desecrating their churches and seeking to force them out.

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