Kosovo’s government has given its support for the European project to create an international court judging crimes committed during and after the war between the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to Serbian forces of Slobodan Milosevic, between 1998 and 2000, said, Friday, April 11, the President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga. However, the law establishing the court, to be debated next week in the Parliament of Kosovo, is not without controversy.
This court, in which serve international judges and prosecutors shall be based on the results of the investigation conducted by a special team of the mission of the European Union (EU) on the rule of law in Kosovo (EULEX). It was opened in 2011, following the report by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator appointed by the Council of Europe to investigate allegations of organ trafficking.
According to the report, more than 1,800 Albanian and Serb Kosovars have disappeared during the conflict and about 500 others, mainly Serbs, were removed after the war. Some were transferred to Albania and killed in order to seize their organs. Senator pointed members of the KLA belonging to the “Drenica Group” involved in the criminal …
by Liridona Hyseni
EU prosecutors wanted to confiscate the Kosovo clinic which was at the centre of an illegal kidney-trading ring, but a man claiming to be its new owner says he has bought it legally.
As the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX continues to investigate organ-trafficking at the Medicus clinic near Pristina after a series of convictions earlier this year, confusion has erupted about the current ownership of the building where the crimes took place in 2008.
EULEX prosecutor Jonathan Ratel said in April that he had asked the court to “confiscate the building, the property around it, medical equipment and everything inside”.
But EULEX told BIRN that this has not happened yet: “No decision has been taken yet on the confiscation of the Medicus building,” said EULEX spokesperson Blerim Krasniqi.
Lutfi Dervishi, former clinic boss of the Medicus clinic, who was convicted of organ-trafficking, said in April that he sold the clinic in autumn 2012.
Dervishi’s defence lawyer, Linn Slattengren, also said in April that new owners were running it. “Apparently they have been licensed as a new clinic and new doctors are operating in it,” Slattengren said.
The man who said he was the new owner of the clinic, Fidaim Imeri, told BIRN that he had consulted the court and the municipality of Gracanica, where Medicus is located, before buying it.
He insisted that the building was not confiscated. “Otherwise I wouldn’t buy it,” he said.
“I have presented [to the court] the necessary documentation on property, the contract and the way the money has been transferred… every three months, 30,000 euro was paid,” he added.
The final decision on the clinic’s ownership is expected to be taken by the basic court in Pristina, but it is not yet clear when this will happen.
Poor people from Turkey, Russia, Moldova and Kazakhstan were allegedly brought to the clinic after being assured that they would receive up to 15,000 euro for their kidneys.
The EU rule of law mission prosecutor in the case said that transplant recipients, mainly Israelis, paid more than 70,000 euro for the kidneys.
Two foreign suspects in the case – Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez and Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen – are still listed as wanted by Interpol but remain at large.
After the convictions, EULEX said it was launching another probe because of evidence that came to light during the trial.
‘Tales from the Organ Trade’, an 82-minute documentary directed by Canadian film-maker Ric Esther Bienstock, includes coverage of the Medicus case, which saw five people jailed earlier this year for their involvement in illegally selling kidneys from a Kosovo clinic.
The documentary will be shown twice at the tenth annual DokuFest film festival in the town of Prizren, which starts next Saturday.
“’Tales From The Organ Trade’ is a gritty and unflinching descent into the shadowy world of black-market organ trafficking: the street-level brokers, the rogue surgeons, the impoverished men and women who are willing to sacrifice a slice of their own bodies for a quick payday, and the desperate patients who face the agonizing choice of obeying the law or saving their lives”, says a description of the film on the festival’s website.
The movie offers interviews with donors and recipients of illegally-traded organs, and also includes interviews with EU rule-of-law mission prosecutor in the Medicus case, Jonathan Ratel, and Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez who is wanted by Interpol over organ-trafficking in Kosovo but remains at large.
Poor people from Turkey, Russia, Moldova and Kazakhstan were allegedly brought to the Medicus clinic after being assured that they would receive up to 15,000 euro for their kidneys.
Prosecutor Ratel said that transplant recipients, mainly Israelis, paid more than 70,000 euro for the kidneys.
At the end of April, a court in Pristina found the former owner of the Medicus clinic, Lutfi Dervishi, guilty of organised crime and people-trafficking, sentenced him to eight years in prison and imposed a fine of 10,000 euro.
Four other people were also convicted, and the EU rule-of law-mission subsequently launched a new investigation into the case based on evidence that emerged during the trial.
Five men have been convicted in Kosovo of involvement in an organ-trafficking ring that performed at least 23 illegal kidney transplants at a clinic on the outskirts of the capital, which is under the watch of UN police and Nato peacekeepers.
The trial of the men, all citizens of Kosovo, has taken on added significance in the region because it echoes a high-profile investigation into alleged organ harvesting by guerrilla fighters during the 1998-99 war.
Would-be donors from Turkey and poor parts of the former Soviet Union were lured to the Medicus clinic in Pristina on a promise of €10,000-12,000. Recipients, mainly Israelis, paid between €80,000 and 100,000 for the organs. Some donors never received any money.
“They were alone, did not speak the local language, were uncertain of what they were doing and had no one to protect their interests,” Dean Pineles, part of an international panel of judges, told the court.
The scandal came to light in late 2008 when a Turkish man was stopped by police at Pristina airport. He was in pain after having his kidney removed. The case grew in notoriety when allegations surfaced that the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which waged an insurgency against Serbian forces in the late 1990s, had extracted and sold organs from captives, some of them Serbs, at sites in neighbouring Albania.
Pineles criticised Marty and the Council of Europe for refusing a prosecution request for him to testify, saying they had “quickly retreated behind the cloak of immunity”. He said the judges were perplexed by the refusal.
The director of the Medicus clinic, urologist Lutfi Dervishi, was jailed for eight years for organised crime and trafficking in persons. His son, Arban, was jailed for seven years and three months.
Anaesthetist Sokol Hajdini was sentenced to three years in prison and two other defendants received one-year suspended sentences. Two more were acquitted. They had all denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors said they would appeal.
Warrants have been issued for two more suspects: Turkish surgeon Yusuf Ercin Sonmez and alleged ringleader Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen.
A taskforce, appointed by the EU and led by the US prosecutor Clint Williamson, is investigating Marty’s allegations against the KLA and is expected to issue a report in 2014.
Nato intervened in the war in 1999, launching 11 weeks of air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces trying to crush the KLA insurgency.
Kosovo, then a Serbian province, became a ward of the UN, patrolled by Nato, and declared independence in February 2008.
Serbia, which does not recognise the 2008 secession, has seized on the allegations as proof that the KLA, with which Nato co-operated during its bombing campaign, also committed war crimes.
The allegations have infuriated Kosovo’s political elite and government, which contains many senior former guerrillas including the prime minister, Hashim Thaçi, who has denied the allegations.