News 13 Feb 13

Serbia Mediates in EU-Russia Organ Trafficking Row

Russia has refused to provide evidence for the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo’s prosecution of Albanians in Pristina over illegal organ transplants.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

Moscow is refusing on political grounds to provide evidence about Russian citizens whose kidneys may have been removed and sold illegally at the Medicus clinic in Kosovo, the Serbian war crimes prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Russia is an ally of Serbia and, like Belgrade, does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

Seven Albanian defendants are currently being prosecuted in Pristina by the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, including Lutfi Dervishi, the owner of the Medicus clinic.

“We are working on a solution. Russia is open to forwarding evidence to us, and allowing only the Serbian prosecution to use it. We will see how we can handle this and allow EULEX to use it,” the Serbian prosecutor told BIRN.

The Medicus case focuses on allegations that poor donors from various countries including Russia were allegedly lured to the clinic with the false promise that they would receive up to 15,000 euro for their kidneys.

The Serbian prosecutor believes that the Medicus case can also be linked to alleged organ trafficking by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, which fought against Belgrade’s forces during the late 1990s war.

The allegations, which first surfaced in the book ‘Madame Prosecutor’ by former Hague Tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte, suggest that that the KLA might have kidnapped several hundred civilians in Kosovo in 1999, some of whom were sent to the northern Albanian village of Burrel, where their organs were harvested.

Similar accusations were made in a December 2010 report to the Council of Europe by rapporteur Dick Marty, who alleged that some KLA fighters, including Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, had traded prisoners’ organs during the 1999 conflict.

The row between EULEX and Russia deepened after Medicus case prosecutor Jonathan Ratel, in an interview for French newspaper Le Monde on Saturday, claimed that Moscow was blocking the largest international investigation into organ trafficking.

According to Ratel, Russia has evidence concerning three potential witnesses who sold their organs in Kosovo.

Russia last month accused the EU of failing to push forward its investigation into alleged organ trafficking by KLA fighters.

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Background

Kosovo's Organ-Harvesting Controversy

Here is a sequence of events leading up to the organ-trafficking charges in Kosovo and the release of the Council of Europe report.

Fatmir Limaj, Kosovo's Road-Builder

Corruption allegations have not dented the popularity of the KLA- fighter-turned-PDK politician who has made it his mission to transform the country’s traffic arteries.

KLA : From Guerilla Wars to Party Plenums

The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that came to the fore in the mid-1990s, demanding the unification of Albanian territories in former Yugoslavia with Albania.

KLA Ran Torture Camps in Albania

The Kosovo Liberation Army maintained a network of prisons in their bases in Albania and Kosovo during and after the conflict of 1999, eyewitnesses allege. Only now are the details of what occurred there emerging.

The Drenica Group

Crime gang allegedly headed by Prime Minister Thaci is said to have run a range of mafia-like enterprises, from cigarette smuggling to trafficking in organs.

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