JUSTICE - KOSOVO

Del Ponte denounces alleged organ trafficking

3 min

In her book "The Hunt: Me and War Criminals," former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte accuses Kosovo leaders, including Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, of involvement in organ trafficking in 1999. (Story : R. Thompsett)

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Kosovo Albanian leaders have been implicated in the war-time trafficking of organs taken from hundreds of Serbs, according to a book by former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

The book entitled "The Hunt: Me and War Criminals" alleges those involved in the trafficking included leaders of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought Serbian forces at the time in mid-1999.

Del Ponte wrote that around 300 prisoners, including women and other Slavs, were kidnapped and transported from Kosovo to Albania, where they were locked up and had their organs removed.

"These organs were then sent from Tirana airport to private clinics to be implanted in patients abroad who paid," she said in the book, available in Italy under the title "La Caccia: Io e i criminali di guerra."

The victims were deprived of a kidney before being imprisoned again in sheds or other buildings until they were killed for other vital organs, she wrote in the chapter "Kosovo 1999-2007."

"Leaders of an intermediate and high level of the KLA were well-informed and were implicated in an active way in the smuggling of the organs."

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is one of three former senior KLA leaders to have served as Kosovo premier since the conflict. The others are his predecessor Agim Ceku and Ramush Haradinaj, recently freed by the UN court.

Del Ponte does not identify her sources precisely in the book, only referring to officials of the United Nations' interim mission in Kosovo and "reliable journalists."

A Swiss lawyer, she served for eight years as the chief prosecutor of the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague up until her mandate expired at the end of 2007.

The book, so far only published in Italian, was written in collaboration with Chuck Sudetic, a New York Times reporter.

It said that in 2003, ICTY investigators went to the location where the crimes are alleged to have taken place and found "traces of blood ... a syringe, empty drug bottles once used in surgical operations."

"As evidence, unfortunately it is insufficient," concludes Del Ponte, who repeatedly expresses regrets in the Kosovo chapter about "violence against witnesses" to KLA crimes.

The ICTY recently acquitted Haradinaj of charges of "ethnic cleansing" in a ruling that drew outrage from Serbian leaders.

In handing down the April 3 ruling, the UN court's presiding judge admitted the trial had taken place in an atmosphere in which witnesses could not feel secure.

Serbian President Boris Tadic referred to leaked excerpts of Del Ponte's book soon after when he called on her replacement, Serge Brammertz, to appeal the decision.

"Carla Del Ponte said the witnesses in Haradinaj's trial had been frightened and even murdered in order not to testify of his crimes," Tadic said at the time.

Del Ponte was appointed Swiss ambassador to Argentina in January.

Ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February and has since been recognised by the United States and most nations of the European Union.

 

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