Following Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s brazen comments last week comparing a Council of Europe report connecting him to organized crime to ‘Nazi propaganda’ and its author, Swiss Senator Dick Marty, to Joseph Goebbels, the Swiss media is hitting back.
On 8 January, the Geneva-based daily Le Temps reported that Thaci, one of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA’s) best known leaders, had prepared his rise in the group in Switzerland in the mid-1990s with funding help from the Albanian diaspora.
Thaci lived in Switzerland from 1994 until 1998 and the Swiss government granted him political asylum, which it is now clearly regretting.
‘There were rumors that the KLA leaders were collecting money from heroin smuggling to buy military weapons which were intended for Kosovo,’ the daily wrote, adding that an investigation was launched against certain Kosovo Albanians for weapons smuggling, violation of territorial sovereignty abroad, hostility and involvement in a criminal organization in 1998. Thaci was also closely monitored by various European intelligence agencies, the report claimed.
‘Thaci went to Kosovo on a regular basis, five to six times a year, in order to strengthen the ties with the KLA officials, although as an asylum seeker he did not have the right to do this and his status in Switzerland could have been revoked,’ Le Temps wrote.
The Council of Europe 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.
Among other things, it says that Thaci has held ‘violent control’ over the heroin trade for the past decade. The US has wholeheartedly supported Thaci in his successful bid for re-election to the post of prime minister of Kosovo, and there were rumors that EU mission in Kosovo (EULEX) criminal investigations against Thaci and his associates had been put on hold until after elections (rumors denied by EULEX) in order to ensure that Thaci and his party had solid public support.
Now the West, and particularly EULEX, should feel under a certain amount of pressure to ensure that justice is being done if there is any hope of a constructive Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. It was perhaps with that in mind that EULEX over the weekend pressed charges against two former KLA commanders for war crimes committed in 1999. Sabit Geci and Riza Alija are accused of torture and other crimes against Kosovo Albanian civilians who were detained at two camps in northern Albania. The KLA allegedly detained the civilians for collaborating with Serbian authorities or harboring ‘negative’ political views. The two were arrested earlier in 2010.
This, however, is unlikely to appease Belgrade, which is looking to see EULEX delve into an active investigation into the charges laid out in the Council of Europe report against Thaci.
On Sunday, Serbian Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Bruno Vekari’ said he had confidence that EULEX could investigate the CoE organ trafficking allegations in Kosovo, but noted that he was less certain whether EULEX had the courage to go through with such an investigation.
‘Serbia’s War Crimes Prosecution has good cooperation with EULEX, which has jurisdiction over the issue. EULEX is doing a far better job than UNMIK, but after Hashim Thaci’s announcement that he will publish the names of people and witnesses that helped Council of Europe (CoE) Rapporteur Dick Marty, the question is how they will react and whether they will have the courage to carry out an investigation,’ Tanjug news agency quoted him as saying.