US Prosecutor to Lead Organ Trafficking Investigation

Posted on August 30, 2011


Via Balkan Insight

John Clint Williamson has been appointed as the lead prosecutor for an investigation into allegations of organ trafficking by the Kosovo Liberation Army in northern Albania.

Williamson, who played a key role in bringing indictments against Slobodan Milosevic, will serve as the lead prosecutor in a seven-member task force headquartered in Brussels but operating under the jurisdiction of the EU’s rule of law mission to Kosovo, diplomats said on Monday.

His task force will probe the Council of Europe’s 2010 report which alleged that a criminal network with links to Kosovo’s incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaci executed kidnapped civilians and sold their organs after the 1999 Kosovo war.

The report, headed by human rights investigator Dick Marty, claimed that “numerous concrete and convergent indicators confirm that some Serbians and some Albanian Kosovars were held prisoner in secret places of detention under KLA control in northern Albania and were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, before ultimately disappearing.”

Marty’s findings corroborated allegations raised in a 2009 investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Center for Investigative Reporting and the BBC.

Thaci has denied the allegations and pledged to work with the investigators.

Williamson has extensive experience investigating and prosecuting complex criminal cases including war crimes.  He was a prosecutor for the U.S. Justice Department and served as a trial attorney for seven years at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

During the Bush administration, Williamson served as Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues.  He is currently a Special Expert on war crimes for the United Nations Secretary-General.

The decision to appoint Williamson signals strong U.S. backing for the probe and follows months of intensive negotiations between the EU and Dick Marty.

Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch said the appointment of Williamson was a “welcome sign that the EU and US government are taking this investigation seriously.”

“The key to the investigation is now witness protection, and western governments must step up to provide the financial and logistical support to make sure those people with information about serious crimes feel safe.  That includes accepting resettlements of witnesses and, if necessary, their families,” he said.

EULEX is the European Union’s rule of law mission in Kosovo. It was established in 2008 and is the largest civilian crisis management mission in history. More than 2,000 international police officers, judges and prosecutors are supported by approximately 1,200 local staff. Its aim is to help Kosovo’s authorities to develop independent and multi-ethnic justice, police and customs services.