Kosovo: Evidence found that hostages were killed for their organs
Investigators commissioned by the European Union have gathered convincing evidence that hostages were murdered so their organs could be harvested and sold during the 1990s war in Kosovo. American prosecutor Clint Williamson, who has been entrusted with investigating crimes in Kosovo, has arrived at that conclusion.
Speaking in Brussels today, Williamson admitted there is not yet enough evidence to bring charges against specific people. His investigation follows a report produced for the Council of Europe in 2010 by Dick Marty.
According to that report, the former rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) practiced trafficking in human organs in Albania and Kosovo, harvesting them from hostages who were either Kosovo Albanians who disagreed with UÇK practices or Serbs. Williamson said today that the UÇK practiced kidnapping and murder in a large-scale, systematic way.
The rebel army ran prisoner of war camps on the border with Albania during the war in Kosovo and its commanders were allegedly involved in organ sales. Williamson did not specifically name anyone as having been involved with the question of trafficking in human organs and would not confirm speculation that there had been hundreds of victims.
"The approximate number is a handful, which means literally ten," Williamson said, holding up both hands for emphasis. The investigation has taken two and a half years, and he said his group can also confirm human rights defenders' reports that the UÇK persecuted Romani people, Serbian people, and members of other minorities.
Investigators reportedly will be able to put together charges against several high-ranking representatives of the UÇK for committing crimes such as kidnapping people who were then disappeared, murder, operation of the prisoner of war camps, and sexual violence. Human rights defenders with Amnesty International (AI) have responded to Williamson's announcement.
"For the families of the 400 Kosovo Serbs who were most probably kidnapped by the UÇK and transported into Albania, where they were probably murdered, this is a step toward justice," Sian Jones of AI said. "The EU and the Kosovo authorities must have a special court established as soon as possible to try these cases, because further delay will ensure the perpetrators' impunity and deter potential witnesses."
During the war in Kosovo, as many as 10 000 people lost their lives during 1998 and 1999. The war did not end until NATO intervened, forcing Serbia to stop its fight against the separatists in Kosovo and withdraw its soldiers; Serbia does not recognize the independence of the former province.
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