Serbs 'Were Stripped of their Organs in Kosovo War'
Globalism; Posted on: 2008-04-12 10:45:21 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
Serb prisoners had their internal organs removed and sold by ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo war, according to allegations in a new book by the world's best known war crimes prosecutor.
By Harry de Quetteville in Berlin and Malcolm Moore in Rome
Exposed: How Kosovo Serbs Were Butchered for Organs
'KLA Harvested Organs'
Image: Hacim Thaci (far left) with Wesley Clark (far right) and other NATO tops
Carla Del Ponte, who stepped down in January as chief prosecutor at the Hague tribunal for crimes committed in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, said investigators found a house suspected of being a laboratory for the illegal trade.
A senior adviser to Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's prime minister and a leading member of the Kosovo Liberation Army which is accused of benefiting from the trade, yesterday denied the allegations.
"These are horrible things even to imagine," said Bekim Collaku. "But this is a product of her [Miss Del Ponte's] imagination."
Miss Del Ponte reports that the allegations were made by several sources and "confirmed information directly gathered by the tribunal".
According to the sources, senior figures in the Kosovo Liberation Army were aware of the scheme, in which hundreds of young Serbs were allegedly taken by truck from Kosovo to northern Albania where their organs were removed. Miss Del Ponte provides grim details of the alleged organ harvesting, and of how some prisoners were sewn up after having kidneys removed.
"The victims, deprived of a kidney, were then locked up again, inside the barracks, until the moment they were killed for other vital organs. In this way, the other prisoners were aware of the fate that awaited them, and according to the source, pleaded, terrified, to be killed immediately," Miss Del Ponte writes.
The claims in The Hunt: Me and War Criminals have renewed tensions between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, which declared independence two months ago. In it, the Swiss ex-prosecutor reveals how her efforts to bring alleged war criminals to justice were stymied by lack of co-operation from all sides - Serb, Albanian and even Nato. But it is her report of the organ traffic that has caused most shock, even in a region long hardened to horror.
Vladan Batic, Serbia's former justice minister, said: "If her allegations are true, then this is the most monstrous crime since the times of Mengele, and it must be made a priority, not only of the domestic judiciary but also of the Hague Tribunal." The book reports a visit by Hague tribunal investigators to a house south of the Albanian town of Burrel where they found traces of blood across a wide area, as well as medical equipment.
"The investigators found pieces of gauze, a used syringe and two plastic IV bags encrusted with mud and empty bottles of medicine, some of which was of a muscle relaxant often used in surgical operations," she writes. However, she concludes that the finds do not amount to sufficient proof for a war crimes tribunal. In Belgrade, the Serbian capital, an association of families of Serbs still listed as missing since the Kosovo war, said it would sue Miss Del Ponte, alleging that she had failed to act over the alleged organ-farming scandal. Serbia's war crimes office announced it had opened its own investigation.
Relevant section from Del Ponte's book:
In a chapter entitled: Kosovo 1999-2007, she writes:
The prosecutors office received information which UNMIK officials had received from a team of trustworthy journalists that during the summer months of 1999 Kosovan Albanians had transported 300 kidnapped people from Kosovo to Albania.
These prisoners were initially held in sheds and other structures in Kukes and Tropoje [Harry's note - north-eastern Albania]. According to the journalists' sources, who were only identified as Kosovo Albanians, some of the younger and fitter prisoners were visited by doctors and were never hit.
They were transferred to other detention camps in Burrel and the neighbouring area, one of which was a barracks behind a yellow house 20 km behind the town.
One room inside this yellow house, the journalists said, was kitted out as a makeshift operating theatre, and it was here that surgeons transplanted the organs of prisoners. These organs, according to the sources, were then sent to Rinas airport, Tirana, to be sent to surgical clinics abroad to be transplanted to paying patients.
One of the informers had personally carried out a shipment to the airport.
The victims, deprived of a kidney, were then locked up again, inside the barracks, until the moment they were killed for other vital organs. In this way, the other prisoners in the barracks were aware of the fate that awaited them, and according to the source, pleaded, terrified to be killed immediately.
Among the prisoners who were taken to these barracks were women from Kosovo, Albania, Russia and other Slavic countries. Two of the source said that they helped to bury the corpses of the dead around the yellow house and in a neighbouring cemetery.
According to the sources, the organ smuggling was carried out with the knowledge and active involvement of middle and high ranking involvement from the KLA.
The tribunal investigators discovered that even if the information for the journalists was tear-jerking, the details were coherent within themselves and confirmed information directly gathered by the tribunal.
'The material within [from the office of the court] does not contain specific material from Albania; but a low number of witness statements and other material we have confirms and to a certain extent amplifies the stated information,' I noted in a memo on this activity.
'All the individuals whom the sources cite as present in the Albanian camps in the summer of 1999 were declared to be lost in the summer of 1999 and had never been seen since then.'
The implications were obvious; 'Given the extremely grave nature of the these cases, the fact that practically none of the bodies of the victims of the KLA were found in the exhumations in Kosovo and the fact that these atrocities would have been committed under the supervision or command of the leadership of the KLA at the medium or high level, they should be investigated in the most thorough way possible by professional investigators and experts.'
The victims of these cases were probably seized after the end of the NATO air campaign in a period in which Kosovo was overrun with foreign peacekeepers and legions of investigators and representatives from Human Right operations. It was not clear whether crimes committed in this arc of time fell under the mandate of the tribunal.
The prosecutors office should have asked for the names of the sources from the journalists and UNMIK as well as any other information they had on this case.
News Source: telegraph