Timeline 21 Jan 11

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.

1993 – A group of Kosovo Albanians and other Albanians from former Yugoslavia form the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, aiming to wrest independence of the province from Serbia.

March 1998 – Serbian security forces kill 52 members of the family of Adem Jashari, a KLA guerrilla fighter from the central Drenica region.

Spring 1998-Spring 1999 - KLA guerrillas and Serbian security forces engage in skirmishes, which results in a violent clampdown by Serbian forces and provokes a humanitarian crisis.

March-June 1999 - After failed Western-mediated talks between Serbian authorities and Kosovo Albanian representatives in France, NATO bombs former Yugoslavia to force Serbia to yield control of Kosovo. After Serbian forces withdraw, Kosovo is handed to the United Nations to administer until future negotiations resolve the final status of the territory.

Autumn 2003 - Journalists from US public radio investigative documentary maker American Radio Works first hear allegations that ethnic Serbs from Kosovo were taken to Albania between 1999 and 2000 and probably had organs removed and harvested.

February 2004 - A joint team of investigators from the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, ICTY, and the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, visit a farmhouse near the Albanian town of Burrel, known as “the Yellow House”, where it was alleged that ethnic Serbs were taken for organ harvesting. The team finds medical equipment, including syringes, intravenous drip bags, and stomach tranquilizers.

Spring 2008 - Carla del Ponte, outgoing Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, makes the first public mention of suspicions concerning the abduction, killing and removal of organs of some ethnic Serbs in “the Yellow House” in her memoir The Hunt.

Autumn 2008 - The EU rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, arrests several doctors and an aide in the Kosovo Ministry of Health after a Turkish national claims he had gone there to have his kidney removed for trafficking.

March 2009 - Balkan Insight, the BBC, and the US-based Center for Investigative Journalism publish stories concerning allegations of torture and murder of mostly Kosovo Albanian civilians in Albania during the 1999 war. Wartime makeshift detention centres are uncovered in the towns of Kukes and Durres in Albania.

May 2010 - Three former KLA commanders, Sabit Geci, Sadri Aliaj were arrested in Kosovo and Xhemsit Krasniqi issued an arrest warrant, to face charges of torture and murder of Kosovo inhabitants in detention centres in Kukes, Cahan, and Durres in Albania during the 1999 war. Krasniqi was believed to be in Albania. But EULEX told Balkan Insight that it had uncovered no evidence to back up claims that the so-called Yellow House had been used for organ trafficking.

November 2010 - EULEX brings indictments against the operators of a private medical clinic in Prishtina, Kosovo, where prosecutors say operations took place to remove kidneys destined for organ trafficking and illegal transplants. Media reports connect the group to an infamous international organ trafficking network linked to Turkish surgeon Yusuf Sonmez.

December 2010 - Council of Europe Rapporteur Dick Marty says in a report that evidence was mounting that groups including senior Kosovo Albanian guerrillas had been part of an organ harvesting and trafficking network operating in a villa in the town of Fushe Kruje, Albania, which was part of an established network. Some ethnic Serbs and Albanians were killed there, the report adds, after which their kidneys were removed. The report details other human rights abuses by elements connected to the former KLA, as well as “a nexus” between KLA elements and organized crime. The claims are strongly rejected by those accused. 

January 2011 – Turkish Doctor Yusuf Somnez is detained in Istanbul but released on bail. He admits to having worked in Kosovo at the Medicus clinic but denies links to the KLA allegations. EULEX holds a meeting with Albanian prosecutors to discuss an investigation into the trafficking case. Council of Europe's assembly prepares to vote on whether to adopt Marty’s report on January 26.

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