Former Kosovo rebel 'witnessed harvesting of Serb prisoner's heart'

Former independence fighter saw heart op on Serb prisoner, says war crimes prosecutor

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 9:30am


Serbia says it has a former Kosovo rebel witness who allegedly took part in removing the heart of a Serb prisoner for the international black market in organs during the 1990s Kosovo conflict.

"We have a witness who testified about a medical procedure, done in northern Albania, that consisted of harvesting organs from Serbs kidnapped during the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo," Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said.

"He described a surgery harvesting a heart from a Serb prisoner at a location near Kukes [in northern Albania] in the late 1990s," and transporting of the organ to Rinas airport near the capital, Tirana, the prosecutor said. It was not immediately clear if the patient was dead or alive when the operation started.

Kosovo dismissed the revelation as "propaganda" and an attempt to "blacken a very big day for Kosovo", which was yesterday granted recognition of full sovereignty by the West despite Serbian opposition.

"We had precise information ... that a day before ending the international supervision of Kosovo, Serbia would publish very bad news for Kosovo," foreign minister Enver Hoxhaj said.

On Sunday, the Serbian prosecutor said the witness claimed he received special medical training in how to harvest organs and gave a detailed description of the operation, adding that the heart was sold on the black market.

Vukcevic would not give any more details about the identity of the witness, other than to say he was a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) currently under strict protection.

Claims of organ harvesting by the KLA during and after the 1998-99 conflict are being investigated by the European Union.

Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty alleged in 2010 that senior KLA commanders - including current Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci - were involved in organised crime.

The group carrying out organ trafficking during and after the conflict with Serbian forces was linked to Thaci, according to Marty.

The report said organs were taken from the bodies of prisoners, many of them Serbs, held by the KLA in Albania at the time.