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December 17, 2010 / jeni

The Kosovo Trafficking Report

Corrupt politicians of the world, listen up: if you want everyone to keep turning a blind eye to your little hobbies, then for god’s sake stay away from the organ harvesting. When even the Daily Mail has something to say about your business, it’s going to be just a bit too awkward for the international community to pretend everything is fine, just fine thanks.

Yes, apparently the prime minister of Kosovo is head of a bunch of heroin-smuggling, rival-assassinating, organ-nicking thugs. It’s gotten a lot of press coverage (see Balkan Insight) but I’m not sure how many people are reading the full report that’s been submitted to the Council of Europe — the draft text can be found here. A few (less salacious) items jumped out at me as I skimmed it.

The report supports the argument that we and many others consistently promulgate regarding the motivations and strategies of non-state actors in conflict zones — namely, that it is misleading to try to separate actors into neat categories of ‘political vs criminal’ (or the outdated ‘greed vs grievance’).

31.       The evidence we have uncovered is perhaps most significant in that it often contradicts the much-touted image of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, as a guerrilla army that fought valiantly to defend the right of its people to inhabit the territory of Kosovo.

32.       While there were undoubtedly numerous brave soldiers who were willing to go to the warfront, in the face of considerable adversity, and if necessary die for the cause of an independent Kosovar Albanian motherland, these fighters were not necessarily in the majority.

33.       From the testimony we have managed to amass, the policy and strategy of some KLA leaders were much more complex than a simple agenda to overpower their Serb oppressors.

34.       On the one hand, the KLA leadership coveted recognition and support from foreign partners including, notably, the United States Government.  Towards this end the KLA’s internationally well-connected “spokesmen” had to fulfil certain promises to their partners and sponsors, and / or adhere to particular terms of engagement that were the de facto conditions of their receiving support from overseas.

35.       On the other hand, though, a number of the senior commanders of the KLA have reportedly not failed to profit from the war, including by securing material and personal benefits for themselves.  They wanted to secure access to resources for themselves and their family / clan members, notably through positions of power in political office, or in lucrative industries such as petroleum, construction and real estate.  They wanted to avenge what they perceived as historical injustices perpetrated against the Albanian population in the former Yugoslavia.  And many of them were seemingly bent on profiteering to the maximum of their potential while they had operational control of certain lawless territories (e.g. in parts of southern and western Kosovo), and leverage – especially in terms of financial resources – with which to negotiate footholds for themselves in other territories (e.g. in Albania).

Investigators also found that ‘the main KLA units and their respective zones of operational command corresponded in an almost perfect mirror image to the structures that controlled the various forms of organised crime in the territories in which the KLA was active’.

In discussing the criminality embedded in the KLA leadership, and detailing how violent factionalism within the KLA continued after the war and ‘shaped the post-conflict political landscape’, the report also provides a brief case study of the ‘criminalisation of politics’ in postwar societies. It is a phenomenon commonly seen throughout the world’s conflict zones and yet little leverage exists to combat it; often the worst purveyors of it are precisely those political actors who are seen as essential to any political settlement of the conflict. Hence the consternation of this report’s author at finding that knowledge of Prime Minister Thaci’s activities has been widespread within the international community for years, to no apparent effect.

So while it’s understandable that contraband kidneys are the particularly eye-catching detail here, hopefully it will bring increased attention to an enduring, systemic problem in the Balkans and beyond.

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