Serbia demands probe of Kosovo organ-trafficking claims

Monday, April 14, 2008

BELGRADE - Serbia is to demand a UN war crimes court resume a probe into claims that Kosovo Albanians were involved in trafficking organs taken from hundreds of Serbs, a government official said Monday.

Around 300 prisoners had organs removed, according to a book by the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte.

"We demand a probe be urgently reopened and fully conducted," the Serbian government official in charge of cooperation with the UN war crimes court in The Hague, Dusan Ignjatovic, told AFP.

The victims, of Serb and other non-Albanian origin, were seized during in Kosovo during its 1998-1999 war and taken to Albania where their organs were removed, Del Ponte wrote in her book, "The Hunt: Me and War Criminals."

She said a probe by her team in 2003 failed to provide sufficient evidence of the claims.

But her book alleges those involved in the trafficking included leaders of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army which was fighting Serbian forces at the time in mid-1999.

"The official request for an investigation to be launched will be sent to the ICTY very soon, most probably tomorrow," Ignjatovic said Monday.

If the tribunal "was unable to do so," Belgrade would insist on investigating itself, he added.

Del Ponte did not identify her sources in the book, only referring to officials of the United Nations' interim mission in Kosovo and "reliable journalists."

In Pristina, Kosovo Justice Minister Nekibe Kelmendi rejected the claims as "fabrications."

"If she knew of such cases then she should be charged with withholding evidence and hiding these crimes," Kelmendi told AFP.

Several thousand people, mostly ethnic Albanians, were killed in the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict between Albanian separatists in the province and Serbian forces.

Some 1,500 Albanians and 500 Serbs and other non-Albanians are still listed as missing.

Del Ponte served as the ICTY's chief prosecutor for eight years, until her mandate expired in late 2007.

Ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February and has since been recognised by the United States and most nations of the European Union.

ih-sm-ks/rlp

04/14/2008 14:13 GMT

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