Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has likened the recently leaked Council of Europe report – which accuses Thaci of leading an organized crime network smuggling everything from weapons and drugs to human organs harvested from kidnapped Serbs – to Nazi-style propaganda, and its author, Swiss Senator Dick Marty to Joseph Goebbels.
Outraged, Swiss officials said the comparison was “violent” and “offensive”, with one Swiss parliamentarian telling the daily Le Matin that the comment was “indicative of this unsavory character.”
The Swiss Foreign Ministry has called on “the countries concerned to deal with this issue responsibly and contribute to the clarification of the criticisms in the report of the Council of Europe prepared by Dick Marty”.
The report, which was prepared by Marty as the CoE’s special rapporteur, was leaked just as Thaci and his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won 12 December snap elections in Kosovo and claimed victory as prime minister.
The report accuses the network of killing Serb prisoners for their kidneys, among other things, and identifies Thaci as “the boss” of the network, which began operations shortly before the 1999 war in Kosovo.
Among other things, the report says Thaci has had “violent control” over the heroin trade for the past decade. The report says that Thaci’s links to organized crime began when his “Drenica Group” found itself the most influential faction with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK), and it was allegedly this position of power and influence that allowed him to seize control of criminal enterprises.
“In confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaci and other members of his Drenica Group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics,” the report says.
Back in Belgrade, where Serbian officials are sure to gain capital thanks to the Thaci scandal, much-awaiting dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina could see Serbia holding more cards than it had only a month ago.
Media in Belgrade had speculated that the arrest warrant against Thaci had been withdrawn; however, the Justice Ministry last week denied those rumors. Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic told the daily Politika that the international arrest warrant issued by Serbia was still active, but that Interpol had refused to issue a red notice for his arrest, citing the Kosovo PM’s diplomatic immunity. Serbia has sentenced Thaci in absentia to 10 years in prison for terrorism and he is also wanted to stand trial for genocide charges.
Regarding the upcoming Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Serbian President Boris Tadic told local media that “Serbia has been ready for weeks to start negotiations about Kosovo”, but that the Kosovo Albanian leadership in Pristina was clearly waiting for the formation of new institutions following the December elections. However, he made it clear that those talks would take place among “experts”, and would not include meeting with Thaci.
The Kosovo Albanian prime minister and former leader of the KLA was named in the Marty report as one of those responsible for kidnapping Serbs and selling their organs in the black market. “The report of Dick Marty not only shook the Kosovo political scene, it also shook the world media scene. That same world that grew accustomed to looking at issues in a black-and-while manner, at the expense of Serbs […],” Serbian media quoted Tadic as saying.
While Thaci has long been a favorite of the West, particularly the US, the leaked report could cause some Western forces to distance themselves from him, though the broad consensus is that the failure to prop him up could destabilize Kosovo. At the same time, however, allowing Thaci to rule without a serious investigation into the accusations against him and the delivery of some form of justice that is acceptable to the Serbian public could jeopardize Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, EU integration and regional stability.