Former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte today called for an international criminal inquiry to examine grisly allegations of murder and human organ trafficking by senior Kosovo politicians.

The allegations were made in a report released earlier this week by European human rights investigator Dick Marty. A parliamentary committee of the Council of Europe approved the report today, sending it to a full assembly meeting in January.

“You cannot read this report and simply look away,” Del Ponte said in an interview from Argentina where she is the Swiss ambassador. “It must be followed up by an international institution capable of carrying out a thorough investigation and prosecutions in necessary.”

Del Ponte told the Center for Investigative Reporting that the complexity of the case made it unlikely that any national court could investigate the allegations, which span multiple countries and implicate Kosovo’s current prime minister, Hashim Thaci.

“What my experience shows me is that it is impossible for any national authority take this kind of an investigation to its end,” said Del Ponte, who was the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 1999 to 2007.

She recounted the challenges faced by tribunal staff when when they tried to investigate organ trafficking allegations in 2004.

“They were stopped,” she said, rejecting claims that the tribunal had ever concluded that the allegations were unfounded. A thorough criminal investigation into the allegations has never been carried out, she said.

Del Ponte also questioned whether the EU mission in Kosovo, known as Eulex, has the resources and political support to handle the case.

“I fear that Eulex will not be able to do this investigation because you can imagine the obstacles they would face with personnel based in Kosovo,” she said. Del Ponte said investigators and witnesses face serious threats from the Albanian mafia and former Kosovo Liberation Army operatives.

If Eulex is unable to take on the investigation, Del Ponte said there were two other options–the International Criminal Court in The Hague, if it receives a special mandate from the UN Security Council, or a stand-alone court modeled on the special tribunal for Lebanon.

The allegations of murder and organ harvesting by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army were raised in Del Ponte’s 2008 memoir, “Madam Prosecutor,” and in a series of investigative reports by the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the BBC. Those revelations spurred the Council of Europe investigation.

Del Ponte praised Marty and his final report.

“Dick Marty is a courageous man and he’s not under political pressure or looking to score political points.”

The governments of Kosovo and Albania have strongly denied the allegations.

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Michael Montgomery

Michael Montgomery is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. He has led collaborations with the Associated Press, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Frontline, KQED and others.

Previously, Montgomery was a senior reporter at American Public Media, a special correspondent for the BBC and an associate producer with CBS News. He began his career in eastern Europe, covering the fall of communism and wars in former Yugoslavia for the Daily Telegraph and Los Angeles Times. His investigations into human rights abuses in the Balkans led to the arrest and conviction of Serbian and Albanian paramilitaries and creation of a new war crimes court based in The Hague. Montgomery’s honors include Murrow, Peabody, IRE, duPont, Third Coast and Overseas Press Club awards. He is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.