New shocking details emerge in Kosovo human organ trafficking

It seems that the investigation of the case of  "black" transplant surgeons from Kosovo comes to a new level. Prosecutor's Office of Serbia managed to find a witness who, during the 1990s, was a member of a gang of illegal sellers of human organs. The evidence that prosecutors obtained is terrifying. However, it is a big question whether the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The origins of the problem

Both Kosovo and Serbia used to be a part of the state of Yugoslavia. In 1945, Kosovo became an autonomous region within Serbia.  In addition to the Serbs, the region was populated by Albanians, who settled there during the WWII. In 1974, Yugoslavia adopted the constitution, according to which Serbia's territories received the status of republics, which, however, did not have the right to separate. Kosovo became an autonomous province, which received its own constitution and government. During the 1980s, the autonomous status of Kosovo was abolished as a result of the political crisis that had plagued Yugoslavia, along with some other countries in Eastern Europe.

Under the new law of Serbia, which was adopted in September 1990, Kosovo retained only the cultural and territorial autonomy within Serbia. The Kosovo Albanians did not agree with such state of affairs and started to create their own governments. In 1991, Kosovo declared independence as a result of illegal referendum. The so-called Republic of Kosovo was created headed by President Ibrahim Rugova. In 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was established, the purpose of which was to struggle for independence of the region. A terrorist war developed in Kosovo, in which rebels KLA gunmen killed hundreds of civilian Serbs.

In March 1999, NATO troops intervened in the conflict without the approval from the UN. They began Operation Allied Force, which lasted until June 1999, when the Yugoslav army withdrew from Kosovo, and the region was transferred under the UN administration. In February 2008, the Kosovo parliament, with the unilateral support from the U.S. and some European countries, declared independence of Kosovo, which triggered a new wave of ethnic unrest in the province. A number of states recognized the independence of Kosovo, including Taiwan, the U.S., France, Italy and some other countries. However, the real status of Kosovo still remains unknown even today.

The case of the "black transplant surgeons" is linked to KLA's activities in Kosovo during the conflict with the Yugoslav army, that is, with the Serbs, in the 1990s. The KLA was linked to al-Qaeda at the end of the 1990s.  According to The Washington Times, the Kosovo Liberation Army fighters were trained in the camps of the terrorist organization. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, this "army" was receiving profit from selling drugs.

As it turns out, another source of the funding for the KLA was the illegal sale of human organs. For these purposes, they used the Serbs as well as foreigners whom they had captured during armed conflicts.

The prosperity of "black" transplantology

The illegal sellers of human organs in Kosovo organized the horrible business very well. The criminals would lure the gullible citizens from Russia, Turkey, Moldova and some other countries into Kosovo. Those people were willing to sell their kidneys for 15,000 euros. After the surgery performed in anti-sanitary conditions, patients would receive nothing of what they were promised. Many of them would die soon afterwards, while the criminals would sell the organs to their customers in other countries for $80,000 - 100,000. The captured Serbs were also used the "donors."

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, became particularly interested in this problem. She published a book about this subject, which caused quite a stir in the world. In 2004, she visited a camp in Albania, where the inhuman operations were performed. Serbian prosecutors filed a criminal case into the trafficking of human organs.

The activities of illegal transplant surgeons received international publicity in 2010 after the report from Dick Marty, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In the report, he unveiled the facts about the activities of the "black transplantologists" from Kosovo in the 1990s. The report also stated that the people from the team of Hashim Thaci, an Albanian, the current Prime Minister of the unrecognized "Republic of Kosovo," were involved in those crimes. Thaci's patrons from the U.S. and its NATO allies were aware of his blood-chilling activities. Britain's The Guardian wrote in October 2011, that the criminal activity of Hashim Thaci was described in a secret document of NATO. However, they do not hurry to prosecute the Albanian, apparently out of narrow political considerations.

Thus, the case of "black" transplant surgeons is not drawing to its end. A witness has been found, who exposed new shocking details about those operations. In the late 1990s, at the height of the conflict between the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs, the KLA captured about 300 Serbs during the war. The people were taken to Albania. The witness, according to Serbia's deputy prosecutor for war crimes Bruno Vekaric, is a former KLA terrorist himself. He had received a two-week training on how to remove human organs.

He was present at an operation to remove the heart of one of the captured Serbs and then took part in the transportation of the organ to the airfield near the Albanian capital, Tirana. The witness opened the man's abdomen himself - there was no anesthesia used in the operation. The witness also said the victim was screaming and begging for mercy; everything around was covered in blood.

Moreover, the KLA members conducted this criminal activity during the time when representatives of various international organizations, such as the Red Cross, the NATO mission and many Western media journalists were staying in the province. The general public was also well aware of those crimes, but there were no decisive steps made to stop the horror. The incident of the KLA crimes, which the witness described, gave a new incentive to the investigation of numerous kidnappings and illegal organ trafficking in Kosovo. Will it be brought to an end? Will justice prevail?

As stated by Natasa Scepanovic, a spokeswoman for The Association of the Families of the Kidnapped and Murdered in Kosovo and Metohija, the experience of investigation of the activities of the sides of the ethnic conflict in Kosovo shows that international organizations expose the victims on the part of the Serbs to discrimination. That is why, she added, the cases of "black" transplantologists do not lead to any results.  This, in her view, raises skepticism about the willingness of international organizations to restore order in this matter. Officials of the "Republic of Kosovo" do not contribute to the investigation either. Thus, Kosovo's Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, stated that the appearance of the witness was timed to the anniversary of the independence of Kosovo.

Of course, the official Pristina does not want to cast shadow on the leadership of the unrecognized republic, because the offense involves Hashim Thaci himself. In connection with the above, there are serious doubts about the fact that the case of the "black" transplant surgeons will be brought to its logical conclusion in the near future. Political and economic crises continue to rock the region, and there is no end to these problems. In addition, the silence of the informed international community and complexity in the search of evidence severely hamper the investigation.

Sergei Vasilenko


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov