Albania urged not to obstruct organ-farming probe


A UN official has urged Albania to stop hampering efforts to investigate claims that hundreds of Serbs were tortured and murdered for their organs in the country during the Kosovo war.

Belgrade says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) abducted up to 500 Serb civilians and took them to neighbouring Albania for organ removal during the 1998-9 conflict with Slobodan Milosevic’s forces.

The allegations were first made public in a memoir by Carla Del Ponte, the former chief UN war crimes prosecutor, who said her office had received information about a possible Albanian trafficking network selling human organs abroad for transplanting.

She wrote that her colleagues did not find enough evidence to proceed with the case, but Serbia has demanded an inquiry, and advocacy group Human Rights Watch has reviewed the information referred to by Ms Del Ponte and said it merits investigation.

“The bottom line appears to be that the issue is definitively stalled,” said UN special rapporteur Philip Alston at the end of a week-long visit to Albania.

“None of the efforts to investigate have received meaningful co-operation on the side of the government of Albania.

“While various explanations were offered to me, they amounted in practice to a game of bureaucratic and diplomatic ping-pong . . . ,” he said.

Mr Alston said it would be in Albania’s interest to have the claims investigated. “Given the strength of the belief . . . that allegations of hundreds of people killed in Albania after June 1999 are unfounded, it would be in the government’s best interest to facilitate an independent and objective investigation by one or other of the international entities currently focused on the issue,” he said.

Ms del Ponte wrote that UN investigators found medical equipment and evidence of extensive bloodstains at a house in Albania where witnesses said the organ removals took place.

Human Rights Watch says it has seen an official UN report that largely corroborates those claims.

Officials in Kosovo insist the allegations are part of Serb efforts to discredit their new state.