A BBC investigation released on April 9 has revealed powerful evidence that the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought for Kosovo's independence in 1998-1999, maintained a network of detention facilities in Kosovo and Albania, where it held ethnic Serbs, ethnic Albanians and Roma. The investigation follows credible allegations in the book The Hunt, by Carla del Ponte, former chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, about the abduction and cross-border transfer of around 400 ethnic Serbs and other captives from Kosovo to Albania after Serbian and Yugoslav forces withdrew from Kosovo in June 1999.
Human Rights Watch first documented post-war violence in Kosovo, which was a province of Serbia with a majority ethnic Albanian population, against Serbs and Roma in an August 1999 report. In May 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote letters to the Kosovo and Albanian authorities, urging them to investigate the serious and credible allegations of KLA abuses.
The Kosovo and Albanian authorities never replied to Human Rights Watch's requests. They dismissed del Ponte's allegations and refused to investigate them. The Albanian authorities have also rejected repeated requests for cooperation from the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor, who has initiated his own investigation.
In June 2008, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nominated Dick Marty as special rapporteur to investigate the fate of missing Serbs. In March 2009, the EU police and justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX) opened its own investigation. Kosovo's justice minister has recently indicated a willingness to consider cooperating with EULEX on this matter.
The BBC's findings, as well as a report on the issue released on April 7, 2009, by Balkan Insight, underscore the need for the Pristina and Tirana authorities to carry out a serious investigation of these allegations and to cooperate with ongoing investigations by EULEX, the Council of Europe and the Serbian war crimes prosecutor. Local and international authorities should promptly establish a functioning program of witness protection.
Kosovo's post-war history has been marked by a widespread local and international failure to bring to justice those responsible for wartime abuses and post-war interethnic violence, a problem linked to Kosovo's weak criminal justice system. Human Rights Watch has documented this trend in a number of reports, including, "Not on the Agenda - the Continuing Failure to Address Accountability in Kosovo Post-March 2004," and "Kosovo Criminal Justice Scorecard."
Wartime abuses by Serbian and Yugoslav forces and the KLA are documented in the report, "Under Orders: War Crimes in Kosovo."