Last Wednesday The Albanian Government slammed as "immoral inventions" allegations by Carla del Ponte that the Kosovo Liberation Army harvested organs from hundreds of Serbian prisoners at illegal hospitals in Albania.

"We regret that the former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ... could write a book full of immoral inventions and absurdities condemnable not only from the moral aspect, but also the penal... The invention of such things encourages groups of radicals, nationalists and does nothing but to incite hate and violence which represent a real danger for peace in the Balkans" Albanian Foreign Minister Lulezim Basha said at a news conference.

In Kosovo, a senior adviser to Hashim Thaci denied the allegations saying, "These are horrible things even to imagine ... this is a product of her imagination."

The Albanians consider del Ponte's allegations so absurd that they aren't going to dignify them with an investigation. Kosovo's justice minister, Nekibe Kelmendi told reporters "These are pure fabrications by del Ponte or by Serbia itself. I have had four private meetings with Carla del Ponte and she never once mentioned any such allegations."

While it is certainly true that Carla del Ponte has a propensity for making wild baseless allegations against Serbs, she has not shown the same malice towards Albanians.

The Albanians are feigning moral outrage because the separatist regime in Pristina is struggling to secure international recognition for its unlawful secession from Serbia. Revelations that Kosovo's political leadership butchered prisoners and sold their internal organs on the black market certainly won't help the Albanians reach their political objective.

Del Ponte's claim that the KLA harvested human organs from its Serbian prisoners is plausible because Kosovo and Albania have long been known as centers for the illegal trafficking of human organs. As the following news reports will show, there is a long history of illegal organ trafficking in Albania and Kosovo. The Albanian news media and Albanian officials spoke openly about the problem in the past, so you can see what their denials are worth today.

World: Hidden trade in babies' organs
The Observer - October 25, 1998 (The Observer News Page; Pg. 27)


TIRANA - Albanian prosecutors believe a grisly trade in babies has arisen amid the breakdown of order in Albania. They suspect that the organs of missing children are being sold for transplant and that other infants are being stolen for adoption abroad.

Arben Rakipi, the country's attorney-general, told The Observer yesterday: 'What we are seeing is a step-by-step worsening of criminal life in Albania that began with contraband smuggling and has come to this.

'We could be talking about hundreds of stolen babies here, of doctors being involved in the trade and of a network that extends to Italy, Greece and Macedonia.'

He said an inquiry had begun into allegations that a 'horror clinic' specialising in human organs had been set up in Tirana. Local newspapers have reported that surgeons working with the Italian mafia were 'operating on babies and sending their organs to Italy'. Albanians were shown a gruesome shopping list of body parts. The going price for a heart, according to the daily Republica, was 30 million Lek ( pounds 130,000). A lung cost pounds 40,000 while kidneys were 'negotiable'.

The reports claimed that 'highly skilled' Albanian surgeons had forged links with the underworld while training abroad. Their scalpels were now being used on babies, and had also been aimed at children aged between four and twelve, because their organs 'were more developed and in demand'.

'I believe what the newspapers have written,' Rakipi said. 'Journalists in Albania are the best investigators.'

The inquiry is expected to move into high gear next month when Alberto Maritati, vice-president of Italy's Procura Anti-Mafia, visits

the former Stalinist state to discuss the prosecutor's findings.

In its short and violent life of democratic freedom Albania has known many demons. In the past two years alone, the majority of its people have lost life savings in pyramid investment schemes and seen their country brought to the brink of civil war under the law of the gun - while having to help thousands of refugees who have poured across the border from Kosovo.

But the baby scandal has shaken even this society. In interviews with The Observer, human rights activists, respected political commentators and women's groups all insisted they believed the reports. Many said they had begun to ask themselves where children were disappearing to.

Unicef officials say hundreds of children, mostly from the poverty-stricken highlands, have vanished. There have been many cases of dead new-born babies being discovered on rubbish dumps in Tirana. 'Child abuse is widespread here,' said Kozara Kati, head of Albania's Centre for Human Rights. 'For years we have heard of children being snatched by gangs or sent by their parents to beg and prostitute themselves in Italy and Greece. Many have returned with inexplicable scars on their bodies. We are, it seems, finally putting the jigsaw puzzle together.'

It is widely thought that most of the missing babies are stolen from mothers who are told they are stillborn, although poverty incites others to hand them to smugglers for a fee.

Despite efforts by Albania's new government to impose order, the lack of control that prevails in state-run institutions like hospitals is painfully apparent. At the main maternity hospital in Tirana guards allow visitors to walk freely into wards and operating rooms where cats can be seen feasting on bloody placentas thrown into waste buckets.

Women in the first stages of labour are watched by groups of curious onlookers. Doctors lack even surgical gloves, and have no idea of which mother and baby is which. The problem of anonymity, which frequently lays the ground for smugglers to move in, has become acute as hundreds of thousands of highlanders have converged on the capital. 'Registration is very difficult because mothers rarely have passports or any other form of documentation,' said the health minister, Leonard Solis, raising his hands in despair.

'This is a great handicap. We have good laws but implementing them is very hard. We want to strengthen the way Albania handles its births and deaths. But criminals are often stronger than the state. The babies scandal shows that nothing is sacred and everything is possible.'

Kosovo police arrest member of international child trafficking group
BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - August 30, 2002, Friday

Excerpt from report by Lundrim Aliu: "Police break up child trafficking chain out of Prishtina airport" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 30 August.

Prishtina Pristina , 29 August: Afrim Bushi, a 43-year-old man from Lushnja, Albania, will now feel the hand of Kosovar justice. On Thursday 29 August , charges were brought against him on grounds of involvement in an international network of child trafficking, trafficking of human bodies and/or paedophilia.

Bushi is already in a prison in Kosova, and the international police, a Kosova judge and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) believe that they have broken up an international chain trafficking Albanian children to Western Europe. Earlier this month, Bushi failed to deceive for at least the third time the police at Prishtina airport when he was trying to travel to Western Europe with a false visa and a captured child.

Shortly before boarding the plane - he was taking a 14-year-old boy to Duesseldorf, Germany - Bushi was stopped by an international border police officer who had expertise in illegal trafficking...

Investigations led to the conclusion that the trafficking Bushi was involved in with orphan children was done for trade in human organs or paedophilia purposes. The investigations have also shown that Bushi was part of a big criminal group.

UNMIK's spokesperson could not explain what kind of a group it is, but said Bushi belonged to a well-organized group that operates in several countries...

The charges against Bushi were brought after police in the Italian coastal town of Pescara arrested two Albanians who were living there. The Albanian couple has been accused of trafficking 36 children to Italy.

According to Italian police accounts carried by the Italian media, Ratis Petalli (age 39) and his 33-year-old wife Xhulieta used the papers of their three children to smuggle other Albanian children to Italy.

The Italian police suspect that the children were either sold or adopted illegally. Meanwhile, investigative authorities in Italy suspect that as many as 36 other children were used to cater for the needs of the European black market for human organs.

SOURCE: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 30 Aug 02 p 4

BBC Monitoring International Reports - August 15, 2004

Excerpt of a report from the Serbian newspaper Ekspres, Belgrade, 12th August.

In our country, illegal trafficking in human organs is flourishing especially in Kosovo. There is a case on record of the bodies of two boys found on a football field in Pristina with some of their organs missing. Abductions of children are a cause of great disturbance in the ethnic Albanian population, with fearful parents often sending their children away to relatives in Medvedja, Bujanovac and Presevo (in southern Serbia) for safety. Rumour has it that Albanians in smart cars lure children with presents, kill them and sell their organs for huge sums of money. Numerous abductions are attributed to a mafia specializing in human organ trafficking. Children disappear for a few weeks, only to reappear suddenly with fresh scars from surgical procedures. For example, an unknown man snatched a boy outside Pristina's City Museum in broad daylight.

People were particularly disturbed by the case of the boy Amrush, which finally substantiated rumours of abductions. The boy was taken to hospital complaining of stomach pains. An examination showed that one of his kidneys had been removed. He could not remember how this had happened, except that he had been given presents as an inducement to go with a strange man to Tirana.

The police are still paying scant attention to the problem of human organ thefts. These cases are mostly taken on by private detectives hired by families or relatives of abducted children. Unfortunately, they are not particularly successful, either.

"It is well known that Kosmet (Kosovo-Metohija) is a Mecca for human organ traffickers. They mostly target children. In recent years, abductions from orphanages and homes for retarded children have been on the increase. At the police station, parents or others who report an abduction and say they suspect organ theft are rarely believed," our source said, preferring not to be named because of the nature of his job.

According to Interpol information, there are illegal hospitals in Italy, Albania and Turkey where organs are removed from abducted persons and later sold.

"The human organ trafficking mafia is one of the best organized, after the drug cartels. Duties are strictly divided - there are abductors, surgeons and those who sell the organs. In Serbia-Montenegro, the entire matter is still considered to be a mystery. Even when somebody establishes that a particular person had an organ removed against their will, it is very hard to prove it. Big money is involved and there are some big names involved, too. The situation is very similar to child trafficking," our source said.

The highest demand is for children's organs and they fetch the highest price, our source said.

"A child's kidney in the West fetches more than 15,000 euros; an eye costs 5,000. After such operations - and there are cases where more than one organ is removed - the children are eventually buried somewhere or thrown into a river. Their fate is never discovered and the police list them as missing persons. Organs are transported in special fridges for known buyers. Organs are smuggled alongside some merchandise, so it is very easy to get them across the border." (Passage omitted: law on organ trafficking)

Source: Ekspres, Belgrade, in Serbian 12 Aug 04 p 7

Taking Aim at Exploitation, Enslavement Of Women
The Washington Post (Final Edition) - October 1, 2003, Wednesday - Pg. A16

By: Nora Boustany

Elizabeth Rehn, a former Finnish defense minister, is in Washington this week to decry the violent subjugation and exploitation of women, sold as sex slaves in many impoverished countries, while officials do little to address their plight.

Rehn, 68, chairs a Belgrade-based group on democratization and human rights in southeastern Europe. Rehn also served as U.N. undersecretary general and special rapporteur for human rights in the former Yugoslavia. She will be speaking at Georgetown and George Washington universities and the National Press Club this week.

A tireless champion and activist on behalf of women, she is here to discuss her concerns in meetings with Congress, the State Department and the World Bank.

After a tour in the Balkans that followed two years of interviewing women in 14 trouble zones, Rehn describes shocking realities involving the trafficking of young females and the sale of human organs in impoverished societies. Rehn said there are several hundred brothels in the Balkans operating out of the backrooms of cafes and restaurants, where young women are imprisoned and forced into prostitution with false promises of employment. She has studied such cases in Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Russia.

Rehn said the international community is complicit in the trade because diplomats, workers at non-governmental organizations, police officers and religious group employees are among the clientele, according to many of the women she has interviewed.

"There is a marketplace outside Skopje [Macedonia] where women step around a stage naked, and brothel keepers just point their fingers to make a selection. Women are sold like cattle on the market and they are kept like slaves. Very few are paid, and if so, only a minute fraction of what their owners get for them," she said.

Some women sold as sex slaves told Rehn that they were also forced to engage in unprotected sex, because clients offer more money for such acts.

"It is like playing Russian roulette. Owners actually dictate what these women ought to do and the numbers of HIV-positive victims has increased tremendously in Moldova, the Ukraine and Russia," Rehn said.

Rehn is the co-author with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of a U.N. report, "Women, War and Peace," which recommends sanctions by the international community, as well as the establishment of truth commissions and the appointment of women to more leadership positions.

"We cannot get real order in the Balkans before we get to the bottom of this criminality," Rehn said. Trafficking in women, she said, is usually linked to drug dealing, money laundering, arms smuggling and corruption. She said local political leaders are involved in this form of organized crime, and in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe with families living on an average of $15 a month, hundreds of thousands of women are lured out of their homes, if not sold directly by family members or boyfriends.

The International Organization of Migration has rescued 400 to 500 girls and sent them home to Moldova from Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia by setting up safe houses for fleeing prostitutes, Rehn said. But there are many thousands who have not been rescued.

"Girls and women and their bodies have become the battlefield of fighting troops," Rehn said. "Ninety-five percent of all the households in the Congo had a rape victim. The youngest was a 9-month-old baby. What kind of monster, not animal, would do this?" In Sierra Leone, women said they begged to be raped instead of their daughters; 10-year-old girls were dragged off as "bush wives for household and sexual services," then released several years later with no way to protect themselves, Rehn said.

The conclusions she has drawn are universal. "If you look at Iraq, it is not enough to send in soldiers. As you start to create peaceful development, you have to get the women involved as breadwinners and main providers. In Iraq, 55 percent are women, and 45 percent are men. This is not a demand for gender equality but a demand for mankind," she said.

Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosa asked President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during a breakfast last Thursday to relieve him of his duties here so he can leave the foreign service and become a trade consultant in the private sector. Barbosa agreed to stay on until the end of next March, while the process of selection and approval of his successor is completed. Two leading candidates are Roberto Abdenur, former ambassador to Berlin, and Bernardo Pericas, Brazil's representative to the Latin American Integration Association, according to the buzz in the Brazilian capital.

Barbosa, 65, will set up his own firm and "charge for what he has been doing for free" in helping major Brazilian manufacturers and exporters market their products, he said. Barbosa has served as ambassador to London as well as to the Latin American Integration Association in Montevideo, an 11-member economic cooperation bloc, before coming to Washington, the posting that capped his last 10 years abroad.

BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - July 31, 1999, Saturday

Text of report by Serbian news agency Beta Belgrade, 30th July.

The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) government coalition party, which has announced its withdrawal from the Serbian government - Vojislav Seselj is the SRS leader today accused the United States of announcing a new bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia FRY , because it is certain that a part of the Serbian opposition, which, according to the Radicals, is controlled by the West, will not win the elections.

"Since the Americans realize that their branch office in Yugoslavia cannot achieve any success, irrespective of the dollars invested, NATO is announcing that it will again stress its threats with bombs, as it is aware that the Serbian people will not give their vote to traitors in free and democratic elections," reads the statement by the SRS executive council.

The Radicals have moreover condemned the arrival in Kosovo of politicians from the countries "who bombed" the FRY, saying that they represent "another aspect of the violation" of the UN Security Council, since their visit has not been authorized by the Yugoslav authorities.

The statement accused the British Kfor Kosovo Force contingent of being responsible for the killing of 14 Serbs in the village of Staro Gracko, and assessed that banning Serbian doctors from being present at the autopsies may be a concealment of another crime, specifically, "the organized theft of human organs" .

SOURCE: Beta news agency, Belgrade, in Serbo-Croat 1342 gmt 30 Jul 99

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