One of the most macabre recent war crime is harvesting organs from captured Serbs by Kosovo Albanian guerrillas during Kosovo conflict 1998-99. The story was kept undercover by western mainstream media until last April 2008 before former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte opened her mouth. New reportages was made e.g. by German Der Spiegel magazine and justice departments from Albania and Serbia have started high level cooperation for case. Council of Europe has decided to re-examine the case, which maybe has also link to illegal organ transplant clinic raided in Pristina, Kosovo, early November 2008.
The Guardian article
A new article by Paul Lewis appeared in the Guardian on Nov. 25th 2008 giving a quite complementary picture of events. His story includes also a video clip over trip of Mr. Lewis to “slaughterhouse” a country house in northern Albania’s mountain region near town Burrel.
Here a comprehensive quote about background:
Of all the many atrocities that human rights groups want investigated from the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, the alleged harvesting of organs from Serbian soldiers by ethnic Albanians is one of the most gruesome. Hundreds of Serbian families have for a decade been demanding what happened to those who disappeared during and after the war. In April, Carla Del Ponte the former UN war crimes prosecutor, gave greater credence to suggestions of a macabre operation, in which as many as 300 Serbs were allegedly abducted and transported to Albania to have their organs removed. In a memoir, she wrote: “Victims deprived of only their first kidney were sewn up and confined again inside the shack until they were killed for their vital organs.”
UN examination 2004
After Mrs. Del Ponte’s sensational disclosure started a work to verify her statements. For example UN had made some checking based ICTY testimonials. However, the UN examination, commissioned by Del Ponte, was previously believed to be missing. Now the Guardian has obtained the report of a UN forensic examination, by a UN expert, José Pablo Baraybar of the Katuci house – aka “yellow house” aka “Burrel house” aka “slaughterhouse” – and it can be found from here.
Baraybar, the former director of the UN’s missing persons and forensics unit in Kosovo, said his team found “highly indicative evidence” that pointed to organ removal at the Burrel house, and prosecutors received testimony from eight witnesses. They comprised “foot soldiers” who claimed to be present during the surgery, he said, and a driver who claimed he brought small groups of Serb soldiers to the house from across the Kosovo border. The driver then described taking conspicuous packages to Tirana airport, bound for flights to Turkey. The surgeon conducting the operations was identified as a Kosovan doctor from Pec, Baraybar said.
Re-examination and a new link
The Council of Europe has decided to re-examine the organ case. A special investigator Dick Marty and his team are starting their work by gathering data from Belgrade, Pristina and Tirana.
Marty’s investigation could gain additional impetus from the recent discovery of an illegal organ transplant clinic in neighbouring Kosovo. Police there raided a clinic in the suburbs of Pristina three weeks ago, arresting two doctors and the country’s acting permanent secretary at the ministry of health, Ilir Rexhaj. Interpol is helping to search for a third doctor, Yusuf Ercin Sonmez, a notorious Turkish surgeon who they believe was behind the operation. (Source the Guardian article).
Selected war crimes – Why?
Why these events are coming public now after ten years? My claim is that only selected war crimes go forward. Some reasons for this from my point of view are following:
- The Anglo-American mainstream media selected its side in Balkan wars already middle 90s . The partly fabricated reports about brutalities of Serbs were published almost real-time; same time and later too the media was silent about the opposite reports of investigations or brutalities made by other sides.
- Politically it was not reasonable to change this created one-side picture about the Serbs as “bad guys” too soon to secure ground for further development of western interests in Balkans.
- The “good guys” were allies of western powers and gained local political leadership e.g. in Kosovo so of course Misters Thaci, Ceku and Haradinaj could not be guilty for some war crimes – they were representing poor Albanian victims (before side selection – middle 0s – US was treating their organisation as terrorist and criminal one).
- The witness protection in Balkans is too weak in pressure of tribe society and criminal – now political clans to get any sentence like it as case in Hague with Mr Oric (leader of Mujahedeen brigade in Bosnia) and with Mr. Haradianj (KLA leader and later PM of Kosovo).
Now the one-sided picture is slowly starting to crack, more comprehensive picture e.g. over Srebrenica case will came public when both prosecutor and defence of Karadzic have made their case. The today’s criminal activities of freedom fighters are coming public and their earlier war crimes will get new light. The big players – e.g. USA with its use of depleted uranium in Kosovo and probably other places also – will of course escape again due the immunity granted in international courts.