Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 02:03:48 AM EST
Tales of organ trafficking by the KLA during the Kosovo campaign surfaced recently:
BELGRADE, Serbia: Serbia's war crimes prosecutor is looking into reports that dozens of Serbs captured by rebels during the war in Kosovo were killed so their organs could be trafficked, the prosecutor's office said Friday.
The Serbian prosecutor's office said it received "informal statements" from investigators at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, that dozens of Serbs imprisoned by Kosovo Albanian rebels were taken to neighboring Albania in 1999 and killed so their organs could be harvested and sold to international traffickers.
Bruno Vekaric, the Serbian prosecutor's spokesman, said later on B92 radio that Serbian war crimes investigators have also received their own information about alleged organ trafficking, but not enough for a court case. Vekaric said Serb investigators also received reports suggesting there might be mass graves in Albania containing the bodies of the Serb victims.
Serbian media reported that the issue was brought into the open in a book written by former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that is to be published in Italy on April 3.
According to Serbia's Beta news agency, which carried parts of the book in Serbian, Del Ponte said her investigators had been informed that some 300 Serbs were killed for organ trafficking.
The Beta report quoted Del Ponte as saying in the book that her investigators were told the imprisoned Serbs were first taken to prison camps in northern Albania where the younger ones were picked out, and their organs were later sold abroad.
Here's the more detailed story from Belgrade's B92 and here is the story in Russia Today.
Update [2008-4-11 7:57:9 by talos]:: April 11, The Daily Telegraph has published the relevant excerpts from Carla Del Ponte's book and they're quite unsettling. Meanwhile Russia has apparently filed a request to the ICTY regarding this case.
Promoted by Migeru
The B92 article mentions a "yellow house" which allegedly was the center of the operation and which Del Ponte visited in 2003. During that visit:
In [the house's] vicinity, investigators... found pieces of gauze, used syringes, two plastic IV solution bags, "petrified in mud", empty medicine bottles, including muscle relaxants used during surgeries.
Inside the house itself, forensics discovered traces of blood on the walls and on the floor in one of the rooms. A section of the floor, sized 180 by 60 centimeters, was clean.
"The owner of the house offered a series of explanations to the investigators when it came to the origin of the blood traces. First, he said that his wife gave birth in that room many years ago. But when the wife made her statement and said that all their children were born elsewhere, he claimed that his family used the room to slaughter animals in order to celebrate a Muslim holiday," Del Ponte writes.
To this Doug Muir responded over at A Fistful of Euros claiming that the story is unlikely on a number of grounds. While the actuality of these events is a matter of speculation and possibly unknowable, all of Doug's points seem moot to me:
- DM claims that 300 Serbs is over a half of all missing Serbs in Kosovo; this is debatable. The Serb side is claiming that over 3000 Kosovar Serbs are missing, but even if we are talking about a total of 400 missing, it doesn't stretch imagination much to picture an organized operation in which prisoners were directed to such camps - anyway the IHT article quoted above speaks of "dozens" of Serb prisoners. Other sources state that the number seems to be "at least 100" or "two trucks full of people". Thus, even if 300 is an inflated number (which it might well be) this does not disallow the possibility that the gist of the story is true.
- DM suggests that the great difficulty of disposing 300 bodies and of keeping silent about it afterwards makes the story unlikely. He compares the situation with the fact that the Serbian state didn't manage to keep secret neither the executions or the mass graves of abducted Albanian Kosovars. He thus seems to mistake state efficiency in Serbia and Albania with Mob efficiency (in either of these countries actually). Since the organ snatchers, if indeed they existed, would have to be connected with the mob, this isn't much of a problem. I'm sure that neither disposing 300 people, say every year or, much more, convincing people to remain silent about it, is something that is way beyond the capabilities of any self-respecting Mafia (see John Stanfa on corpse-disposal technique).
- Doug also suggests that the Albanian government would have to be complicit in such an operation. Not at all. Trafficking in people, including cases of organ snatching, already occur and have been occurring for way over a decade in much of the developing world and Eastern Europe, certainly including both Albania and Kosovo, and certainly without government complicity in most cases. In fact a few years ago a Greek-Albanian organ smuggling ring (mentioned here) was, according to investigations, active in Greek and Albanian hospitals and smuggled human organs through diplomatic pouch, having certain Albanian diplomats on the payroll as well. This was certainly neither done with the assistance or help of the Albanian government (DM brushes off a bit too lightly the connection between Berisha the Socialist Party and the KLA,but that's another story). I remind everybody that the border at the time we're talking about was quite porous with refugees coming daily in and out of Albania.
- The idea that this is a really difficult process, if one assumes the assistance of organizations that are superb smugglers of both goods and people, have access to hospitals and doctors and very fast vehicles of all types, seems likewise an exaggeration. Again any decent-sized mafia could easily pull this over. Otherwise there would be no illegal organ trafficking trade at all. Something which is not the case.
Thus, while I agree that this is very far from proven, I'm much less confident that the whole story can be dismissed as "probably bullshit". If the story is totally bogus, what in the world could make Carla Del Ponte of all people, include it in her book? And neither of Doug's two alternative scenarios regarding the "yellow house" is plausible IMHO. Firstly because no one in Albania would deny involvement in setting up a hospital for the KLA (which anyway could easily accomodated in a regular hospital tending to fleeing Kosovars) and secondly because the "torture-camp" idea, as Doug himself notes, doesn't explain why anybody would do this in Albania rather than on the field in Kosovo.
Two things to add:
- The story itself is important in a sense that has little to do with whether it is actually true: This is an innovation, an idea that merges seamlessly with the current zeitgeist of market-driven-everything. It is a brilliant way to make a direct profit from what are usually considered to be martial waste products. The idea is so good that I'm willing to bet that if Dick Cheney has heard about it, having already dispensed with the most of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, he has his legal team turning the idea into some sort of non-biddable contract for KBR to sign, giving it full authorization for the expedient <s>trafficking</s> salvaging of usable organs from terrorists and other Arabs. This has the potential to be something that is praised in the OpEd columns of the WSJ, blessed by various US congregations and sold as some form of yet another triumph in the annals of
ghoulishness graverobbing colonialism humanitarian-war. Similarly, smaller markets could emerge, as a vast array of mafias big and small rush to war zones with medical trucks, doctors and nurses, in order to utilize the soon to be remains of those about to die. Thus, both legal and black market supply of organs will increase. The only problem will be keeping supplies of bootleg organs at low enough levels as to not effect prices by much. Everybody (that matters, anyway) wins! $$$$$$!!!! Lotsa Euros!!!!!
- Regardless of the plausibility and validity of the scenario, one can be certain that, had Carla Del Ponte heard of any similar reports of organ trafficking in 1999, but from the other side, i.e. were the accused body snatchers Serbs, with exactly the same evidence to back this up:
a. It would be out in the open well
before CDP decided to write a book.
b. A Hollywood film about it would already have been released with a star cast and presented as fact
c. The alleged center of detention and organ snatching would be by now a byword for modern evil, casually referred to as such by pundits on both sides of the Atlantic.
d. The people claiming that the story was "possibly bullshit" would be dismissed as pro-Milosevic patsies, or something like that.
e. I'd be writing a similar post complaining that were the perpetrators of the alleged crimes, anything other than Serbs and were the victims Serbs, people would dismiss the story as not very plausible and in fact it would barely make the news.
[This is an edited version of a post over at histologion]