"New details in Kosovo organ trafficking case"

BELGRADE -- Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević has announced that new details in the Kosovo human organ trafficking case will be revealed "in a few days".

Vladimir Vukčević (FoNet, file)
Vladimir Vukčević (FoNet, file)

Vukčević also commented on the acquittal on appeal of former Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač by the Hague Tribunal to say that the principle of fighting against impunity for war crimes was "seriously jeopardized".

Gotovina and Markač were found guilty and sentenced to decades in prison by the first-degree ruling, for their role in war crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in Croatia in 1995.

"The crime in Krajina, the murder of civilians and their expulsion, the fate of those people who even today live as refuges, far from their homes, is one of the greatest crimes in the territory of former Yugoslavia, for which no one has been held responsible to date," the prosecutor told Belgrade's Večernje Novosti daily.

Vukčević added that he found it "legally incomprehensible and unacceptable that, with equal ascertained facts, the first degree chamber should hand down long sentences, while the second degree chamber reaches a diametrically opposed, scandalous decision."

He also addressed the issue of the Kosovo organ trafficking, to say that "significant progress has been made".

The case, investigated by his office, as well as the EU mission in Kosovo, EULEX, concerns allegations that ethnic Albanian KLA in 1999 and 2000 kidnapped Serb and other civilians in the province, imprisoned them illegally in northern Albania, and then removed their body parts for sale in the international black market.

"The public appearance of a witness has opened up Pandora's Box. People realized that somebody somewhere was doing something very serious. They have been encouraged and are ready to contribute to the whole truth about these events to come to light," Vukčević told the newspaper.

According to him, good cooperation had been established with EULEX's investigative team led by Clint Williamson, and with that of international prosecutor Jonathan Ratel in Priština, who is investigating the Medicus case. The latter concerns peace-time illegal organ transplants in Kosovo, where the victims came from abroad and were giving up their organs voluntarily in exchange for monetary gain.

However, Council of Europe (CoE) special rapporteur Dick Marty, in his report submitted in late 2010, made a connection between the two criminal activities.

According to Vukčević, "investigation is currently being conducted in at least seven places", while the public can expect new details "in a few days".

The prosecutor described these new details as "certainly interesting", and noted that they would "bring the families of the victims at least partial satisfaction".

As for the "restrained reaction" of the EULEX team after the prosecution aired footage of the statement made by a protected witness of the atrocities earlier this year, Vukčević said this was "to be expected":

"That reaction was expected, but we are not investigating crimes for anyone except for the families of the missing, for the sake of justice, and in an attempt to, after solving these, I'd call them crises, create conditions for true reconciliation in the Balkans".