Kosovo and Albania – ORGAN TRAFFICKING (Anatomy of a Crime)

Organ theft in Kosovo (sometimes also known as the “yellow house” case) refers to alleged organ harvesting and killing of an indeterminate number of “disappeared” people. Various sources estimate that the number of victims ranges from a “handful”, up to 50,] and between 24 to 100. The victims are believed to be mostly ethnic Serbian men from Kosovo, allegedly killed by perpetrators with strong links to elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1999. By 2011, about 1,900 “disappeared” people (about two-thirds of them ethnic Albanians) still remained missing from the Kosovo conflict. According to allegations, the victims were chosen from a pool of about 100 to 300 combatants and civilians taken prisoner or kidnapped by the KLA during and after the Kosovo War and then taken to detention centers and private homes in northern and central Albania. According to the allegations, which indicate the involvement or at least knowledge of several mid-level and senior KLA commanders, the chosen victims were taken to a makeshift clinic near Tirana, Albania, where they were shot in the head and then had their organs removed. The United Nations (UN) war crimes prosecutors investigated the case in 2002 and 2003, and again in 2004, but concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove that the organ harvesting ring existed. In 2010, a report by Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty to the Council of Europe (CoE) uncovered “credible, convergent indications” of an illegal trade in human organs going back over a decade, including the deaths of a “handful” of Serb captives allegedly killed for this purpose. On 25 January 2011, the report was endorsed by the CoE, which called for a full and serious investigation. Since the issuance of the report, however, senior sources in the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and many members of the European Parliament have expressed serious doubts regarding the report and its foundations, believing Marty failed to provide “any evidence” concerning the allegations. A EULEX special investigation was launched in August 2011. A possibly related case of illegal, yet non-lethal, organ transplants at the Medicus clinic outside Pristina is reportedly part of an international organised crime network with links to Kosovo’s government. The Medicus case resulted in the indictment and arrest of several people who will be tried in two separate actions conducted in Kosovo and Turkey.

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