News 02 Apr 12

Serbia Suspects Limaj of Organ Trafficking

The Serbian prosecution stated on Friday that they were investigating Fatmir Limaj and other 28 ex-Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, fighters for organ trafficking and other war crimes against civilians in Kosovo.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

According to Serbia’s Prosecutor's Office for War Crimes, Fatmir Limaj, an ex-KLA commander, is suspected of deporting several Serbs and non Albanians from Lapusnik camp in Kosovo to camps in north Albania, where the illegal organ transplants allegedly took place.

The Serbian authorities issued an international arrest warrant in 2009 for Limaj and they expect that he will be arrested if he tries to leave Kosovo.

Serbia and Kosovo do not have an extradition treaty, since Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, and there is no cooperation between Serbia and UNMIK or EULEX either, regarding the extradition of suspected criminals.

Limaj had previously been identified as one of the organizers of organ trafficking in Kosovo in a report by Dick Marty, the Council of Europe rapporteur, in December 2010.

According to the report KLA members kidnapped Serbs and members of other minorities in Kosovo in 1999 and 2000, killed them in northern Albania and then harvested their body parts for sale on the black market.

The Kosovo Organ Trafficking investigation is currently run by the EU Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, and its chief prosecutor Clint Williamson, who visited Belgrade last week in order to exchange evidence with the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office for War Crimes.

Bruno Vekaric, the Deputy Prosecutor for War Crimes, said on Friday that Serbia has significant evidence that confirms the existence of the organ trafficking scheme in Kosovo and that they have discussed the technical details of cooperation between the two prosecutions with Williamson.

Currently five people are on trial at the District Court of Pristina for conducting 30 operations that allegedly involved illegally acquired transplant organs at the Medicus medical clinic, based in Pristina.

During the Medicus trial hearing on March 23, prosecutor Jonathan Ratel requested that Dick Marty appear as a witness, claiming that he had evidence that can clear up the case.

Beside the crimes in the Lapusnik camp, the Serbian prosecution also suspects Limaj of war crimes at five other places in Kosovo, including the camp at Klecka, in the Drenica region of Kosovo.

On Friday, the Pristina Court decided to continue the trial against Limaj and three other former KLA fighters, while six other defendants in the Klecka case were cleared of all charges.

Limaj, Kosovo MP and the Vice President of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, has already faced a war crimes trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

In November 2005, the Hague Tribunal acquitted him of all the charges regarding his alleged involvement in crimes committed in the Lapusnik prison camp in 1998.

 

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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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