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Home News Albanian villagers block organ trafficking probe

Albanian villagers block organ trafficking probe

Published on 12/08/2009

Tirana -- Albanian villagers stopped a team of European investigators from approaching a house where Kosovo rebels allegedly harvested the body organs of hundreds of Serbs 10 years ago, reports said Tuesday.

"The residents of the village of Ripa blocked the road for two hours (on Monday) and prevented Council of Europe investigators entering the Katuci house without a warrant issued by Albanian prosecutors," News 24 television said.

The investigators, overseen by Dick Marty, rapporteur of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, were forced to give up the attempt to visit the Katuci family home in the Balkan country’s north.

The Council of Europe is yet to comment on the incident.

Marty was in Albania’s capital Tirana at the time of the incident, which came at the end of a week-long investigation that also took him to Serbia and Kosovo.

His team is investigating Serbian allegations the rebels killed up to 500 of its citizens in Albania for their organs to be sold abroad after they were kidnapped during the 1998-1999 war in neighbouring Kosovo.

The conflict between Kosovo guerrillas and forces loyal to late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic left around 10,000 people dead, most of them ethnic Albanians from the breakaway southern Serbian province of Kosovo.

The claims arose in the memoirs published last year of former UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who wrote the organs were removed at a "yellow house" since identified as the Katuci family’s.

Del Ponte’s book prompted the Council of Europe to reopen the case briefly investigated by her office five years ago.

Albania’s Justice Minister Enkeiled Alibeaj told AFP last week that his country was "open to all demands for an investigation in accordance with the criteria" of a Council of Europe convention.

But the owner of the yellow house, Abdulla Katuci, told News 24 that Marty’s team was prevented from entering his home because they had "no legal mandate and we do not know who they are."

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s 2004 investigation into the issue had "found no evidence and is again beginning to haunt us", he complained.

Milosevic died of natural causes in 2006 at the Netherlands-based ICTY before the end of his trial for war crimes committed by his forces in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia last year.

AFP / Expatica