TIRANA (Reuters) - A Council of Europe draft report gives gruesome details alleging Kosovo Albanian guerrillas loyal to now-Prime Minister Hashim Thaci harvested the organs of some captives, mainly Serbs, they killed a decade ago.
The report by Swiss senator Dick Marty, a rapporteur of the Council of Europe, is expected to be adopted by the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly and it urges Kosovo’s EU-run judiciary in Kosovo to probe the charges.
Kosovo Albanians believe such information about events from the late 1990s war years was fabricated by Serbia to smear their KLA liberators. Belgrade lost control of the province, now independent, after NATO’s air attack in 1999.
Marty says in the report that almost 500 people disappeared in Kosovo after NATO troops arrived. About 100 were Albanians and close to 400 non-Albanians, most of them Serbs.
Citing evidence from witnesses, the draft report says the KLA network maintained bases to keep scores of captives, select them for the suitability of organ harvesting and later killed some of them to extract organs from mid-1999 to mid-2000.
“In the months directly after the declared end of the Kosovo conflict in June 1999, members and affiliates of the KLA purportedly delivered scores of persons they had abducted into secret detention on Albanian territory,” Marty’s report said.
Evidence suggested, Marty added, that the organizers used
safe locations in Kukes on the Kosovo border, Rripe in the Mat region further south, and at Fushe-Kruje near the international airport. The location in Fushe-Kruje was specially built.
“It constituted a state-of-the-art reception center for the organized crime of organ trafficking. It was styled as a makeshift operating clinic, and it was the site at which some of the captives held by KLA members and affiliates had their kidneys removed against their will,” Marty’s report said.
Age, sex, state of health and ethnicity, with mostly Serbs targeted, determined the selection.
“Some of these captives are said to have pleaded with their captors to be spared the fate of being ‘chopped into pieces,'” Marty said, citing source testimonies his team had obtained.
“The testimonies on which we based our findings spoke credibly and consistently of a methodology by which all of the captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one or more of their organs.”
Then they shipped them to overseas clinics, part of an international black market in organ-trafficking for transplants.
Albania has denied it knew or condoned such activity and has considered the matter closed, saying the claims proved untrue. Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, who has not been allowed to investigate in Albania, has started his own investigation.
Serbia could have an eyewitness, sources said.
Claims the KLA had engaged in organ trafficking emerged in April 2008 in the memoirs of the ex-chief war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, who said she had been prevented from properly investigating alleged atrocities by the KLA.
Xhavit Haliti, a senior official of Thaci’s PDK party mentioned in the report as one KLA commander active in Albania, said he believed Marty’s report was politically motivated, but welcomed an investigation to shed light on the matter.
“Smuggling organs is a very serious accusation, which I think should be verified. I believe it is impossible to imagine that the KLA had a mechanism (for involvement in) it. It is impossible. Professionally it was impossible,” Xhaviti said.
Additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Editing by Adam Tanner and Mark Heinrich