18. 12. 2008
Panorama
Stefano Giantin

Chuck Sudetic: “About 400 Serbs were kidnapped, and are missing”

Pristina (photo: Nerris Markogiannis)

Pristina (photo: Nerris Markogiannis)

“About 400 Serbs from Kosovo were kidnapped in 1999, transferred to Albania, and killed”. This is the real story that should be stressed, said  Chuck Sudetic, co-author,  with Carla Del Ponte, of the book “The Hunt”. “One should avoid focusing exclusively on the assertions that might have died in an organ-harvesting operation and focus on the thing that is known for sure:  about 400  Serbs were kidnapped, and are missing. Apart from their families, nobody paid any attention to them for eight years, because they were on the wrong side during the conflict”.

Sudetic covered the break up of the former Yugoslavia, including the wars in Bosnia and Croatia, for the New York Times. Carla Del Ponte and Sudetic were among the first to speak publicly about credible assertions that some Serb kidnap victims were killed as part of an organ harvesting operation  in secret clinics in Albania and that a criminal investigation is necessary.

How many Serbs were kidnapped by KLA and transferred to Albania?
 “According to the most updated sources, around 400. They were kidnapped, transferred to Albania, and clearly killed. Among those, there was a small group that may have been caught up in the organ business”.

How many of them?
“A small number, maybe a dozen or two”.

Were the victims only from Kosovo Serbs?
“No, according to the sources who led United Nations  investigators to a location where they found syringes, spent medicine containers and other equipment used in surgery, as well as possible traces of human blood, the victims included  women of different nationalities who were probably involved in people trafficking or prostitution. We had reports about Roma as well as Albanian women”.

Therefore we cannot speak about an ethnically-motivated crime.
“When you kidnap 400 people, all of whom  happen to be Serbs, take them across an international border, and kill them, that is an ethnically motivated crime. The assertions about the organs operation suggest, however, that this activity was an organized crime operation. The motivation here was money, mafia”.

The case of organ trafficking, even with smaller numbers, is anyway concrete.
“There are indications that this crime was committed, but not conclusive proof. An UNMIK investigator, along with an Albanian prosecutor and an investigator from the United Nations tribunal for Yugoslavia were  in Albania in February 2004 and discovered corroborating, but still inconclusive, physical evidence that a crime may have taken place. The UNMIK investigator  wrote a report on the “yellow house”. Apart from small details, the UNMIK report corroborates exactly what Del Ponte and I wrote in her memoirs.

In which countries were the organs sold?
“If you go back and start looking at the stories about organ transplants in 1999 and 2000, what you see is that there was a lot of focus on Turkey”.

Why did the Hague Tribunal not investigate further on the organ traffic issue?
There was never a full investigation opened into this  issue at the Yugoslavia tribunal. There was was  a fact-finding mission. The Tribunal decided that – even if the organ-transplant-related crimes were committed, and there is still no evidence of that,  only evidence corroborating the accounts of some unnamed sources - these crimes took place  outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The alleged crimes happened after June 1999. After the end of the armed conflict in Kosovo. The parties who could investigate further were the authorities in Albania, who have shown no interest,  and the UNMIK authorities in Kosovo. Both of them should answer the simple question, why no criminal investigation?

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