Paris: Civilians detained by the Kosovo Liberation Army were allegedly shot to death in northern Albania so their kidneys could be extracted and sold on the black market after the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, according to a report prepared for Europe`s premier human rights watchdog.
The report by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty — more than two years in the making — also suggested Kosovo`s U.S.-backed prime minister was once the "boss" of a criminal underworld behind the alleged grisly trade.
Kosovo`s government branded the report as "baseless" and described it as an attempt "to tarnish the image of the Kosovo Liberation Army." In a statement, the government also accused Marty of bias and "fabrications."
Marty, a Swiss senator, led a Council of Europe team of investigators to Kosovo and Albania in 2009, following allegations of organ trafficking by the KLA published in a book by former U.N. War Crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.
Marty is known internationally for a 2007 probe on behalf of the Council of Europe that accused 14 European governments of allowing the CIA to run secret prisons and conduct rendition flights from 2002 to 2005.
The 55-page report is an attempt to cast new light on the KLA, which received U.S. backing in its fight to secure Kosovo`s independence from Serbia in 1999. Marty says it is an attempt to unearth alleged crimes that went unpunished in the postwar period.
Marty`s investigation found that there were a number of detention facilities in Albania, where both Kosovan opponents of the KLA and Serbs were allegedly held once the hostilities in Kosovo were over in 1999, including a "state-of-the-art reception centre for the organized crime of organ trafficking."
The report says the captives had their blood drawn and tested to help determine whether their organs would be suitable for transplant, and were examined "by men referred to as `doctors`" in the towns of Rripe and Fushe-Kruje. During his 2007 trip to Albania, then-U.S. President George W. Bush visited Fushe-Kruje.
Marty said his findings were based on testimonies of "KLA insider sources" such as drivers, bodyguards, and other "fixers" involved in logistical and practical tasks, as well as "organizers," or the ringleaders behind the lucrative organ trade. The report, however, does not name any of the sources, or the number of people who were allegedly killed in the process.
The accounts pointed to "a methodology by which all of the captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one or more of their organs," the report said.
The report alleges that the captives were first taken to a house in Albania run by an ethnic Albanian with ties to KLA`s leadership. When the surgeons were ready, KLA gunmen would shoot the captives — their corpses quickly taken to an operating clinic, it said.
Marty did not specify how many people were killed for their organs, but said the "filtering" process allegedly ended in Fushe-Kruje where "the small, select group of KLA captives who were brought this far met their death."