By Tony Robson:
US, Europe concealed organ trafficking by Kosovo Liberation Army
29 December 2010
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has been implicated in war crimes involving torture and the illicit trade in human organs, including those removed from Serb civilians taken captive and killed during and after NATO’s 1999 war against Yugoslavia.
The current prime minister of Kosovo and former KLA commander, Hashim Thaci, is identified as the leading figure within a criminal network involved in drug trafficking as well as the trade in human organs. Thaci and other commanders within the “Drenica group” faction of the KLA exercised command control over detention facilities based in neighbouring Albania and determined the fate of those held captive.
A two-year inquiry conducted by the Council of Europe (CoE), the results of which were published earlier this month by the CoE rapporteur Dick Marty, provides details showing that the human organ trade has continued to the present day, with the KLA running Kosovo as a criminal fiefdom.
The CoE oversees the European Court on Human Rights.
The Medicus clinic in the Kosovan capital, Pristina, is the subject of criminal proceedings over the trade in human organs. It has been closed down by EULEX (the European Union rule of law mission), which took over aspects of law enforcement from UNMIK (the United Nations Mission in Kosovo) in 2008. A number of individuals, including doctors and a former health ministry official, have been charged with being part of an international criminal network. Health law in Kosovo forbids organ transplantation, but the health secretary granted the centre a licence.
The KLA brought people into Kosovo for the purpose of removing and selling their organs, European Union prosecutor Jonathan Ratel said in the indictment. Some victims came from countries such as Moldova, Turkey and Russia. They were promised up to US$20,000 (€14,500), but the organ recipients were required to pay between US$110,000 and US$137,000 (€80,000 to €100,000).
In his report, Marty did not pull his punches with regard to the wealth of information long in the possession of Western intelligence services regarding Thaci’s criminal activities. He cited records from five countries—Germany, Britain, Italy, Greece and the United States—showing that they all knew of the KLA’s activities and helped conceal them.
Point 70 of the report states: “Thaci and these other ‘Drenica Group’ members are consistently named as ‘key players’ in the intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime. I have examined these diverse, voluminous reports with consternation and a sense of moral outrage.”
Other sources cited in the report include witness testimony from former KLA soldiers and auxiliaries involved in transporting detainees as well as from some of those held captive.
The CoE inquiry was undertaken to follow up allegations of the KLA’s involvement in human organ trafficking that were first made public in early 2008. These were contained in the memoirs, entitled The Hunt, of Carla Del Ponte, the outgoing chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). She chose to make these revelations only after she was replaced as chief prosecutor and Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was endorsed by the US and other European powers.
Del Ponte’s claims centred on a suspected detention facility in Rripe, near Burrel in central Albania. Referred to as the “Yellow House,” it was identified as a location where Serb civilians abducted from Kosovo were taken and killed and their organs removed for sale abroad.
One of the most damning aspects of Marty’s report is its revelation that the ICTY and UNMIK, which conducted an initial investigation of the “Yellow House” in 2004 and found bloodstains in the main room, later destroyed the physical samples retrieved from the site. The report states, “We must permit ourselves to express astonishment that such a step was taken.”
Large numbers of people listed as missing during and directly after the 1999 Kosovo conflict are still unaccounted for. There remain 1,869 missing persons, according to the International Red Cross. Two thirds of these are Kosovan Albanians. Of this total, 470 disappeared after NATO troops entered the province on June 12, 1999. Of these, 95 are Kosovan Albanians and 375 are non-Albanian, mainly Serbs.
At this time, the KLA, backed by NATO, was able to exercise control over a large amount of territory. The proportion of those who went missing after NATO entered Kosovo may, in fact, be even higher. The law on compensation for “martyrs” excludes those who died after the June 12, 1999, cut-off point.
A major reason for the lack of progress in tracing missing persons has been obstruction by the authorities in Kosovo and Albania. While Serbia has been obliged to cooperate with the ICTY in exhuming suspected sites of mass graves, the same pressure has not been exerted on the governments in Tirana and Pristina.
See also here.
As an act of revenge for the Marty report, Thaci has announced that he will publish a list of all Kosovo Albanians who helped Dick Marty with his investigation, exposing those witnesses to assasination: here.