Albania asks human rights body to cancel stolen organ claims

·3 min read

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The Albanian Parliament has asked Europe's top human rights body to rescind a 2011 resolution that cited since-unsubstantiated allegations of human organ harvesting during the 1990s war in Kosovo.

The parliament voted 125-0 late Thursday in favor of a motion asking the Council of Europe to clear both Albania and Kosovo of the organ trafficking claims. Supporters said such an action would help normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

“That issue (organ harvesting claims) should end sometime so the people find the power to reconcile and live together, healing the wounds of the past," the resolution states.

In 2011, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution calling for a European Union mission in Kosovo to investigate “war crimes and organ trafficking” in Kosovo and Albania. It cited allegations that fighters from the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army trafficked human organs taken from prisoners, slain Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians in both Kosovo and Albania.

“Numerous indications seem to confirm that, during the period immediately after the end of the armed conflict, before international forces were really able to take control of the region and re-establish a semblance of law and order, organs were removed from some prisoners at a clinic on Albanian territory ... and taken abroad for transplantation,” the resolution stated.

The resolution was based on a 2010 report by Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, a Council of Europe investigator, who said the KLA was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbs during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The KLA fought Serbia's forces to try to win independence for Kosovo, then a Serbian province.

Marty's report also concluded there were cases in which some of the captives were killed for their organs to be sold on the international black market. A “yellow house” in a northern Albanian district was believed to serve as a clinic for organ harvesting and attracted international media attention.

After a 2 1/2-year investigation, a special European Union prosecutor in 2014 said he had “compelling indications” that up to 10 captives were killed to have their organs harvested for illegal trafficking and black market sale during the war.

However, the prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone for the alleged crimes.

The motion adopted by Albania's lawmakers said the claims in Marty's report therefore “remained unsubstantiated, unproved and not based on evidence and facts and consequently they should be considered as such by national and international institutions.”

Prime Minister Edi Rama, the leader of the Socialists, on Thursday called Marty’s report “monstrous” and denounced the KLA getting characterized “as a criminals' terrorist unit dealing with organ trafficking.”

The report also was the basis for an amendment to Kosovo’s Constitution that established a special court to prosecute former KLA leaders over war crimes.

An EU-backed war crimes court, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a linked prosecutor’s office based in The Hague, has arrested five ex-KLA leaders since 2020, including Kosovo’s ex-president, Hashim Thaci, and former parliament speaker Kadri Veseli. They have denied wrongdoing. Only one of the five defendants has gone on trial.

More than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died during the war between the KLA and Serbian military forces before a 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbia to pull its troops out and to cede control to the United Nations and NATO.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The United States and most of the West recognize it a country, but Serbia — supported by allies Russia and China — does not.

Llazar Semini, The Associated Press

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