Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo (Part 2)

Rapporteur Mr Dick Marty, Switzerland,Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

(Dick Marty, Council of Europe, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights ) Wednesday, December 15, 2010

74. Specifically, in our determination, the leaders of the "Drenica Group" seem to bear the greatest responsibility for two sets of unacknowledged crimes described in this report: for running the KLA's ad hoc network of detention facilities on the territory of Albania[30]; and for determining the fate of the prisoners who were held in those facilities, including the many abducted civilians brought over the border into Albania from Kosovo.

75. In understanding how these crimes descended into a further form of inhumanity, namely the forcible extraction of human organs for the purposes of trafficking, we have identified another KLA personality who apparently belongs to the leading co-conspirators: Shaip Muja.

76. Up to a point, Shaip Muja's personal biography in the liberation struggle of the Kosovar Albanians resembles those of other "Drenica Group" members, including Hashim Thaqi himself: from student activist in the early 1990s[31]; to one of an elite group of KLA "Co-ordinators", based in Albania[32]; to Cabinet member of the Provisional Government of Kosovo, and leading commander in the post-war Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC)[33]; reinvented as a civilian politician in the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK); and, finally, becoming an influential office-holder in the current Kosovo authorities[34].

77. The common thread running through all of Muja's roles is his involvement in the medical sector. We do not take it lightly that this individual presents himself, and is accepted in many quarters, as "Dr. Shaip Muja": purportedly not only a medical doctor and general surgeon, but also a humanitarian and progressive practitioner[35].

78. We have uncovered numerous convergent indications of Muja's central role for more than a decade in far less laudable international networks, comprising human traffickers, brokers of illicit surgical procedures, and other perpetrators of organised crime.

79. These indications and elements of proof have prompted us to suspect that Muja has derived much of his access, his cover and his impunity as an organised criminal from having maintained an apparently legitimate medical "career" in parallel. There is an analogy to be drawn here with the way that Thaqi and other Drenica Group members have used their own roles in public office, and often in international diplomacy. The difference in Muja's case is that his profile in organised crime is scarcely known outside of the criminal networks he has worked with and the few investigators who have tracked them.

80. According to the testimonies of our sources who were party to KLA operations in Albania, as well as other military and political compatriots who know Shaip Muja intimately, Muja managed to acquire and retain crucial behind-the-scenes influence over the affairs of the KLA in the defining period in the late 1990s when it was garnering international support.

81. Then, in the period of hostilities in northern Albania and around the Kosovo border, coinciding with the NATO intervention in 1999, Muja, in common with most of his fellow KLA commanders, reportedly stayed well clear of the frontlines, maintaining the KLA's operational power base in Tirana.

82. Together with Haliti and Veseli, in particular, Muja became involved in finding innovative ways to make use of, and to invest, the millions of dollars of "war funds" that had been donated to the KLA cause from overseas. Muja and Veseli reportedly also began, on behalf of the "Drenica Group", to make connections with foreign private military and private security companies[36].

83. We found it particularly relevant that Thaqi's "Drenica Group" can be seen to have seized such advantage from two principal changes in circumstances after 12 June 1999.

84. First, the withdrawal of the Serb security forces from Kosovo had ceded into the hands of various KLA splinter groups, including Thaqi's "Drenica Group", effectively unfettered control of an expanded territorial area in which to carry out various forms of smuggling and trafficking.

85. KFOR and UNMIK were incapable of administering Kosovo's law enforcement, movement of peoples, or border control, in the aftermath of the NATO bombardment in 1999. KLA factions and splinter groups that had control of distinct areas of Kosovo (villages, stretches of road, sometimes even individual buildings) were able to run organised criminal enterprises almost at will, including in disposing of the trophies of their perceived victory over the Serbs.

86. Second, Thaqi's acquisition of a greater degree of political authority (Thaqi having appointed himself Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Kosovo) had seemingly emboldened the "Drenica Group" to strike out all the more aggressively at perceived rivals, traitors, and persons suspected of being "collaborators" with the Serbs.

87. Our sources told us that both KLA commanders and rank-and-file members were exasperated by the heavy toll inflicted on the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo, particularly in 1998 and early 1999 before and during the NATO intervention. As the Serb police and paramilitary forces retreated from Kosovo in June 1999, KLA units from northern Albania were deployed into Kosovo with the ostensible objective of "securing the territory", but fuelled by an irrepressible anger, and even vengeance, towards anyone whom they believed had contributed towards the oppression of the ethnic Albanian people.

88. Serb inhabitants of predominantly ethnic Albanian communities quickly became targets for revenge. Other targets included anybody suspected - even upon the basis of baseless accusations by members of rival clans or persons who held long-standing vendettas against them - of having "collaborated with" or served Serb officialdom. In a door-to-door campaign of intimidation, KLA foot soldiers were ordered to collect names of persons who had worked for the ousted FRY authorities (in however trivial an administrative function), or whose relatives or associates had done so. Into this category of putative "collaborators" fell large numbers of ethnic Albanians, as well as Roma and other minorities.

89. Against this background, our account of abuses committed by KLA members and affiliates in Albania goes well beyond one-off aberrations on the part of rogue or renegade elements within an otherwise disciplined fighting force. On the contrary, we find these abuses widespread enough to constitute a pattern.

90. While certain acts speak to a particular brutality or disregard for the victims on the part of individual perpetrators, we find that in their general character these abuses were seemingly co-ordinated and covered up according to a premeditated, albeit evolving, overarching strategy on the part of the leadership of the Drenica Group.

91. In general terms, the abuses were symptomatic of the prevalence of organised criminality inside the KLA's dominant internal faction. Holding persons captive in makeshift places of detention, outside the knowledge or reach of authority, and contriving ways of silencing anyone who might have found out about the true nature of the illicit activities in which the captors are engaged, count as tried and trusted methodologies of most mafia structures - and the Drenica Group was no different.

92. The Drenica Group itself apparently evolved from being part of an armed force, the KLA (ostensibly engaged in a war of liberation), into being a conspicuously powerful band of criminal entrepreneurs, the Drenica Group (albeit one with designs on a form of "state capture"). In parallel we have detected a transformation in the Group's members' activities in one particular area of operations: detention facilities and the inhuman treatment of captives.

3.3. Detention facilities and the inhuman treatment of captives

93. In the course of our inquiry we have identified at least six separate detention facilities on the territory of the Republic of Albania, situated across a territory that spans from Cahan at the foot of Mount Pashtrik, almost at the northernmost tip of Albania, to the beachfront road in Durres, on the Mediterranean coast in the west of Albania.

94. The KLA did not have outright, permanent control of any part of this territory during the relevant time, but nor did any other agency or entity that might have been willing, or able, to enforce the law.

95. In particular, the lacuna in law enforcement was a reflection on the failure of the Albanian police and intelligence services to curb the mafia-like banditry and impunity of certain KLA units that had stationed themselves in northern and central Albania around the period of the conflict. The KLA's senior regional commanders were, in their respective areas of control, a law unto themselves.

96. The locations of the detention facilities about which we received testimony directly from our sources - corroborated by elements of proof gathered through the efforts of investigative journalists (some of which dates back ten years or more), and more recently through the efforts of EULEX investigators and prosecutors - included: Cahan; Kukës; Bicaj (vicinity); Burrel; Rripe (a village southwest of Burrel in Mat District); Durres; and, perhaps most important of all, for the purposes of our specific mandate, Fushë-Krujë.

97. We were able to undertake visits to the sites of two such detention facilities in Albania in the course of our inquiry, although we did not enter the facilities themselves. Additionally, in respect of at least four other such facilities that we know to have existed, we have heard first-hand testimony from multiple persons whom we have confirmed as having visited one or more of the facilities in person, either at the time that they were actively being used by the KLA, or on monitoring missions since.

98. The detention facilities in question were not resorted to independently or as self-standing entities. Rather, these detention facilities did exist as elements of a well-established, co-ordinated and joined-up network of unlawful activity, of which certain senior KLA commanders maintained control and oversight. The common denominator between all of the facilities was that civilians were held captive therein, on Albanian territory, in the hands of members and affiliates of the KLA.

99. The graphic map included in this report depicts the locations at which we know such detention facilities existed, along with the transport routes connecting them.

100. There were, nonetheless, considerable differences in the periods and purposes for which each of these detention facilities was used. Indeed, it is evident that each detention facility had its own distinct "operational profile", including with regard to: the manner of the relationships formed or deals made to enable detentions and related operations to take place there at different times; the character and composition of the groups of captives held there; the means by which the captives arrived there; and the fates awaiting those captives during and at the end of their respective periods of detention.

101. We shall begin by describing some of the general characteristics of KLA detentions in wartime (some of which seem to meet the threshold for war crimes), and post-conflict detentions carried out by KLA members and affiliates (which appear to constitute an organised criminal enterprise). Thereafter we will examine more closely what happened at each of the detention facilities on the territory of Albania.

3.3.1 KLA detentions in wartime First subset of captives: the "prisoners of war"

102. In the period between April and June 1999, KLA detentions on Albanian territory were discernibly based on the perceived strategic imperatives of fighting a guerrilla war.

103. During the time of war and the attendant mass movements of refugees into Albania, the KLA reportedly implemented a policy under which all persons suspected of having the merest knowledge about the acts of Serb authorities, particularly those who were suspected of having been "collaborators", should be subjected to "interrogation".

104. We were told that this policy was supported actively on the territory of Albania by powerful elements within the Albanian national intelligence apparatus, including SHIK (now SHISH) and military intelligence, some of whose members even participated in asking questions of captives held at KLA detention camps. However, the driving force behind the policy was Kadri Veseli (alias Luli), a lynchpin of the Drenica Group.

105. The detention facilities at which the "interrogations" purportedly took place - particularly those closer to the border with Kosovo - doubled as military "bases" or "camps" at which training exercises were performed and from which frontline troops were dispatched, or re-supplied with arms and ammunition. They included disused or appropriated commercial properties (including one hotel and one factory) in or on the outskirts of larger provincial towns, which had essentially been given over to the KLA by sympathetic Albanians who supported the patriotic cause.

106. At times these wartime camps were used simultaneously as detention facilities and other purposes, such as: parking vehicles or storing caches of military hardware; stockpiling of logistics or supplies like uniforms and rifles; conducting repairs on broken-down vehicles; treating injured comrades; or for holding meetings between different KLA commanders.

107. For the most part, however, the captives were purportedly kept separate from what might have been considered as conventional "wartime" activities, and indeed the captives were largely insulated from exposure to most KLA fighters or external observers who might have visited the KLA's bases.

108. If all of the captives detained in KLA facilities on the territory of Albania were divided into subsets of the overall group according to the fates they met, then in our understanding the smallest subset of all comprises the "prisoners of war": those who were held purely for the duration of the Kosovo conflict, many of whom escaped or were released from Albania, returned home safely to Kosovo, and are alive today.

109. We are aware of there being "survivors" in this category, who have gone on to bear witness to the crimes of individual KLA commanders, who were held in facilities at one or more of the following three detention locations:

Cahan - KLA camp close to the Kosovo warfront, also used as a "jump station" from which to deploy troops;

Kukes - former metal factory converted into a multi-purpose KLA facility, including at least two "cellblocks" to house detainees; and

Durres - KLA interrogation site at the back of the Hotel Drenica, the KLA's headquarters and recruitment centre.

110. Based on source testimonies, along with material contained in indictments issued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for the Republic of Kosovo, we estimate that a cumulative total of at least 40 persons, each held in one or more of the three above-named detention locations, were detained by the KLA[37] and have survived to the present day.

111. This subset comprised mostly ethnic Albanian civilians - as well as some KLA recruits - suspected of being "collaborators" or traitors, either on the premise that they had spied for the Serbs, or because they were thought to have belonged to, or supported, the KLA's political and military rivals, especially the LDK and the emergent Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK)[38].

112. Persons in this subset were targeted primarily for interrogation, and several have described being asked questions while being treated roughly by KLA and Albanian intelligence officers. However, during further periods of detention that went on to last from a few days to more than a month, most of these captives were ultimately beaten and mistreated gratuitously by their captors, in what appeared to be measures of punishment, intimidation and terror.

113. The KLA commanders accused of having been in charge of these detention locations included Sabit Geqi, Riza Alija (alias "Commander Hoxhaj"), and Xhemshit Krasniqi. All three men featured prominently in previous UNMIK investigations into war crimes in northern Albania; all three have now been named in SPRK indictments, and should soon stand trial in the Kosovo District Court[39]; and their properties have been extensively searched.

114. The evidence gathered in the course of these processes seem to indicate that these KLA operatives - along with their Regional Commander for Northern Albania, the now deceased Xheladin Gashi - were aligned with the "Drenica Group", under the direction of Hashim Thaqi, and were acting in concert with, among others, Kadri Veseli. Case study on the nature of the facilities: Cahan

115. The camp in Cahan was the furthest north of all the facilities in Albania used by the KLA, and was accordingly most closely tied to activities at the warfront[40]. We have found no indication that captives were taken out of Cahan to other detention facilities in Albania, although we cannot rule it out.

116. It seems that the deeper into Albanian territory a facility's physical location, the less directly it related to the KLA's war effort and the more entrenched its connection proved to be with the underworld of organised crime.

117. We found it telling that persons who described having been held captive and mistreated at Cahan had largely been apprehended in an arbitrary and relatively spontaneous fashion, often in the course of KLA patrols in the vicinity of the camp itself, or at checkpoints on the border crossing between Kosovo and Albania.

118. The persons in this first subset were apparently mostly released when warfront hostilities ceased and the Serb security forces had withdrawn from their positions inside Kosovo, in June 1999. The survival of these captives in significant numbers is demonstrated not least by the listing of more than a dozen named persons with the status of "injured parties / witnesses" in criminal proceedings against the commanders of the Cahan and Kukes sites. Case study on the nature of the facilities: Kukës

119. Among the specific sites at which civilian captives were secretly detained in the custody of the KLA, we obtained extensive details about a KLA base at a disused factory building on the outskirts of the northern Albanian town of Kukes.

120. Two first-hand witnesses explained to us how prisoners had been brought to the Kukes site, where they were thrown into makeshift cellblocks, left in insanitary conditions without food and water, and were visited periodically by KLA soldiers to be questioned under harsh treatment, or indiscriminately beaten.

121. The extent of the ill-treatment suffered by prisoners at this facility has been meticulously documented, inter alia, by Kosovar and international personnel working in the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Kosovo. In statements given to prosecutors in 2009 and 2010, more than ten individuals - almost all of them ethnic Albanians - described having been detained indefinitely, struck brutally with sticks and other objects, and subjected to various forms of inhuman treatment at the Kukes site. Several witnesses stated that screams of agony from persons held in separate sets of cellblocks could be heard filtering through the corridors.

122. The Government of Albania has stated that there are no bodies of deceased persons related to the Kosovo conflict buried in the territory of Albania, and indeed that there never were. The case of Kukes proves that this claim is manifestly untrue.

123. First, there are bodies that were cast into rivers in Kosovo and have been carried downstream over the border into Albania. The exhumation of such bodies and the recovery of their remains by representatives of the OMPF in Kosovo would be relatively "uncontroversial" - but even intervention on these cases has been strongly resisted by the Albanian authorities.

124. Second, there are known individual cases in which the bodies of murdered Kosovars have been identified as having been interred in Albania. These cases have led - in instances documented by both Albanian and international journalists, and made known to us - to prolonged, albeit discreet, negotiations between the families of these Kosovars and the authorities administering the cemetery site(s) in Albania. Ultimately, and of particular note, in one case explained to us in detail by a first-hand source, bodies have been exhumed and repatriated to Kosovo for a proper burial by the families. The Albanian authorities told us that they knew of no such cases.

125. Third, there are allegations of the existence of mass grave sites on the territory of the Republic of Albania. The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutors' Office stated to us that they have in their possession satellite photographs of the areas in which these mass graves are located - but up to now, the sites themselves have not yet been found, despite a formal request made by the Serbian to the Albanian authorities to carry out searches.

126. We obtained records from the local cemetery in Kukes, which seem to carry a significant confirmation: bodies of persons from Kosovo had indeed been buried in Northern Albania. The most important document was a five-page "List of deceased immigrants from Kosovo, 28 March 1999 - 17 June 1999", which was prepared by the Supervisor of Public Services in the Municipality of Kukes, northern Albania.

127. The document has subsequently been admitted as evidence in the District Court of Mitrovica, Kosovo, upon submission of the Special Prosecutors' office of Kosovo. One of the deceased persons on the list - Anton Bisaku, featured at No. 138 - was found to have been among the known victims of secret detention and inhuman treatment at the KLA facility located in Kukes, Albania.

128. According to an indictment issued in August 2010, Bisaku and an unspecified number of other civilians held in detention in Kukes were "repeatedly beaten and struck with sticks and batons, kicked, verbally abused and tortured". In charging the defendant Sabit Geci with "War Crimes Against Civilian Population", including "the killing of a civilian at Kukes, one Anton Bisaku who was beaten and shot", the EULEX Special Prosecutor stated that Bisaku was "killed as a result of gunfire directed at him during a session of inhuman treatment, beating and torture which occurred on or about 4 June 1999".

3.3.2 . Post-conflict detentions carried out by KLA members and affiliates

129. After 12 June 1999, Kosovar Albanians continued to detain persons for a variety of motives, including revenge, punishment and profit. The perpetrators - all of whom were, according to our sources, KLA members and affiliates - thereafter fashioned their own novel means of apprehending and abusing civilians, and transporting them out of Kosovo to new detention facilities in Albania, distinct from those that been operated by the KLA in wartime.

130. On the months directly after the declared end of the Kosovo conflict in June 1999, members and affiliates of the KLA purportedly delivered scores of persons they had abducted into secret detention on Albanian territory.

131. It is of grave concern to us, and should be a priority for investigation and resolution on the part of the Albanian authorities, that the vast majority of the persons whom we found to have been so treated remain unaccounted for to the present day, including numerous ethnic Albanians.

132. According to our information, there was not just one facility in Albania at which this post-conflict form of secret detention took place - there was a whole ad hoc network of such facilities, joined up by frequent journeys between them on Albania's provincial roads, and across the porous, chaotic (especially at the time of the mass refugee movements in mid-1999) border between Kosovo and Albania.

133. We were able to access corroborated, first-hand testimony from former KLA fighters and auxiliaries who carried out multiple transports into and between the facilities named in our report, as well as transports of captives out of most of them.

134. On these journeys, KLA recruits and affiliates reportedly drove unmarked private vehicles, including trucks and vans, sometimes in convoys, between one facility and the next. They transported KLA personnel and logistics, provisions of food, alcohol or cigarettes, and groups of women who would be exploited for sex. Most significantly, in the months from July 1999 until as late as August 2000, they also transported captives.

135. The facilities in which captives were detained in the post-conflict period differed in character from the wartime facilities: we have found that they were primarily rustic private residences in rural or suburban areas, including traditional Albanian farmhouses and their storage barns.

136. There was, in addition, at least one custom-built element to the post-conflict network of detention facilities, which was unique in appearance and purpose. It constituted a state-of-the-art reception centre for the organised crime of organ trafficking. It was styled as a makeshift operating clinic, and it was the site at which some of the captives held by KLA members and affiliates had their kidneys removed against their will. According to our sources, the ringleaders of this criminal enterprise then shipped the human organs out of Albania and sold them to private overseas clinics as part of the international "black market" of organ-trafficking for transplantation. Second subset of captives: the "disappeared"

137. The captives in this subset were victims of enforced disappearance: none has been seen, heard of or accounted for, since being abducted from Kosovo, in the weeks and months directly after 12 June 1999.

138. The orchestrators of this post-conflict criminal enterprise had apparently put in place a process of filtering, whereby a smaller number of captives was picked out selectively from each larger group of disappeared, and moved on to somewhere else. The evidence suggests that the rationale behind the process of filtering captives in this manner was linked to a determination of the suitability of the chosen captives for the use that awaited them.

139. Factors thought to have played into the filtering process, as recounted to us by multiple sources, included age, sex, health condition, and indeed the ethnic origin of the captives, ethnic Serbs having been targeted primarily.

140. We heard numerous references to captives not merely having been handed over, but also having been "bought" and "sold". It was as a result of these references that we tried to understand more clearly the intersection between the abductions and undeclared detentions in the context the conflict, and the activities of organised crime, which was prevalent in many sectors of daily life in the region. Case study on the nature of the facilities: Rripe

141. In the course of our inquiry, we established that at least three sources whose testimonies we obtained unquestionably were physically present at the house of the K. family in Rripe near Burrel (the much-cited "yellow house") in the context of KLA criminal enterprises during which they were present.

142. Each of these sources was able to recount unique and specific details regarding the precise location and appearance of the house, the background of its proprietor, the KLA personnel posted there, and the character and commandership of the illegal activities that took place in the house in the period from 1999 to 2000.

143. Based upon these source testimonies, it can be concluded that the K. house was occupied by, and under the control of the KLA who were part of a network that operated throughout most of the northern half of Albania.

144. A small group of KLA commanders reportedly ordered and oversaw multiple deliveries of civilian captives to the K. house over a period of up to a year, from July 1999 until mid-2000. Most of these captives had been abducted from the provincial areas of southern Kosovo and brought into Albania using the methods of transportation described in this report. Unlike those held in Kukes, the captives brought to Rripe were predominantly ethnic Serbs.

145. In addition, sources close to the KLA spoke of a large number of trafficked women and girls being brought to the K. house, where they were exploited for sex not only by the KLA personnel, but also by some of the menfolk in the Rripe community.

146. During the period in which the KLA maintained a presence at the house, the silence of the inhabitants of Rripe as to the presence of KLA units and their activities was, according to our sources, obtained by threats, but also by "pay-offs" including significant sums of money, as well as free access to alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.

147. There are substantial elements of proof that a small number of KLA captives, including some of the abducted ethnic Serbs, met their death in Rripe, at or in the vicinity of the K. house. We have learned about these deaths not only through the testimonies of former KLA soldiers who said they had participated in detaining and transporting the captives while they were alive, but also through the testimonies of persons who independently witnessed the burial, disinterment, movement and reburial of the captives' corpses, both while the KLA was occupying the K. house, and in the period after the KLA had vacated the K. house and the family inhabitants had returned.

148. Our findings in relation to the K. house appear to corroborate, to a large extent, the findings made by a team of investigative journalists working for the US-based documentary producers "American Radio Works". These findings were summed up in a confidential internal memo submitted to UNMIK in 2003, which in turn gave rise to the investigative mission to the K. house referred to before.

149. Yet, the testimonies we gathered also revealed a dimension to the KLA's operations at the K. house that had not previously been reported, either by the ARW team, or in the memoirs of former ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte, or in the successive "revelations" in the media.

150. KLA operatives in fact not only dropped off captives at Rripe, but apparently also picked up captives from Rripe, for transportation onwards to different detention facilities. According to the testimonies of drivers involved in transporting the captives, some of the persons they picked up at Rripe were the same persons they had brought from Kosovo, while others had arrived at Rripe from a different and unknown provenance, which the drivers never found out.

151. The K. house was therefore not the endpoint, or ultimate destination, in this joined-up network of detention facilities and captive transports. Its precise role, its importance to the whole operation, was perhaps previously misconstrued.

152. The K. house appears in fact to have had the character of more of a "way station", at which captives were held in transit to their ultimate fate, and according to certain sources, subjected to apparently strange forms of "processing" / "filtering", including the testing of their blood and physical condition. Observations on the conditions of detention and transport

153. Captives were reportedly held incommunicado under constant armed guard at these detention facilities, either in rooms that were part of the main buildings, or in barns, garages, warehouses or other adjoining structures designed for storage.

154. During the transports between these buildings, captives were routinely bundled into vans and trucks, restrained by binding their hands behind their backs, and tied to internal fixtures of the vehicle.

155. The drivers of these vans and trucks - several of whom would become crucial witnesses to the patterns of abuse described - saw and heard captives suffering greatly during the transports, notably due to the lack of a proper air supply in their compartment of the vehicle, or due to the psychological torment of the fate that they supposed awaited them. Third subset of captives: the "victims of organised crime"

156. The last and most conspicuous subset of captives in the post-conflict period, not least because its fate has been greatly sensationalised and widely misunderstood, comprises the captives we regard as having been the "victims of organised crime". Among this subset are a handful of persons whom we found were taken into central Albania to be murdered immediately before having their kidneys removed in a makeshift operating clinic.

157. The captives in this subset undoubtedly endured a most horrifying ordeal in the custody of their KLA captors. According to source testimonies, the captives "filtered" into this final subset were initially kept alive, fed well and allowed to sleep, and treated with relative restraint by KLA guards and henchmen who would otherwise have beaten them up indiscriminately.

158. The captives were, as we were told, each moved through at least two transitory detention facilities, or "way stations", before being delivered to the operating clinic. These "way stations", apparently controlled by KLA operatives and affiliates aligned to the "Drenica Group", were situated inter alia in the following detention locations:

Bicaj (vicinity) - an apparently privately-owned house in a small village south of Bicaj, in a rural setting not far removed from the main road towards Peshkopi;

Burrel - on the outskirts of the town of Burrel, a compound containing at least two individual structures in which captives were locked up, as well as a house in which operatives congregated and rested;

Rripe - the two-storey, self-standing farmhouse referred to as the K. house, or the "Yellow House", which was subject to a combined UNMIK / ICTY forensic site visit in 2004 after being identified by investigative journalists; and

Fushë-Krujë - another detached, two-storey farmhouse removed from the main roads and enclosed within a large compound, which reportedly served as a "safe house" not only for KLA affiliates, but for other groups of organised criminals involved in smuggling drugs and trafficking in human beings.

Case study on the nature of the facilities: Fushë-Krujë

159. It was in the last of the locations discovered in our investigations, Fushë-Krujë, that the process of "filtering" purportedly reached its end-point, and the small, select group of KLA captives who were brought this far met their death.

160. There are strong indications, from source testimonies we have obtained, that in the process of being moved through the transitory sites, at least some of these captives became aware of the ultimate fate that awaited them. In detention facilities where they were held in earshot of other trafficked persons, and in the course of being transported, some of these captives are said to have pleaded with their captors to be spared the fate of being "chopped into pieces"[41].

161. At the latest when their blood was drawn by syringe for testing (a step that appears to have been akin to "tissue typing", or determining levels of organ transplantation compatibility), or when they were physically examined by men referred to as "doctors", the captives must have been put on notice that they were being treated as some form of medical commodities. Sources described such tests and examinations having been undertaken in both Rripe and Fushë-Krujë.

162. The testimonies on which we based our findings spoke credibly and consistently of a methodology by which all of the captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one or more of their organs. We learned that this was principally a trade in "cadaver kidneys", i.e. the kidneys were extracted posthumously; it was not a set of advanced surgical procedures requiring controlled clinical conditions and, for example, the extensive use of anaesthetic.

163. We learned from distinct and independent KLA insider sources about diverse elements and perspectives of the organ-trafficking ring in action: on the one hand, from the perspective of drivers, bodyguards and other "fixers" who performed logistical and practical tasks aimed at delivering the human bodies to the operating clinic; and on the other hand, from the perspective of the "organisers", the criminal ringleaders who, as alleged, entered business deals to provide human organs for transplantation purposes in return for handsome financial rewards.

164. The practical dimension of the trafficking enterprise was relatively simple. Captives brought as far as the Fushë-Krujë area (which entailed an arduous drive of several hours onwards from Rripe or Burrel) were first held in the "safe house" facility. The proprietor of this property was an ethnic Albanian who allegedly shared both clan ties and organised criminal connections with members of the "Drenica Group".[42]

165. As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the "safe house" individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.

166. The surgical procedures thereupon performed - cadaver kidney extractions, rather than surgeries on live donors - are the most common means through which donor organs and tissues are acquired for transplant purposes - except for the criminal method of obtaining the cadavers. Eminent organ transplantation experts whom we have consulted during our inquiry described these procedures to us as efficient and low-risk.[43]

167. Sources stated that the Fushë-Krujë axis was chosen to host these facilities because of its proximity to the main airport servicing Tirana. The facilities at the hub of this organ-trafficking ring - the "safe house" and the operating clinic - therefore offered accessibility for incoming international visitors and outgoing shipments alike.

4. Medicus clinic

168. In the course of our inquiry we have uncovered certain items of information that go some way beyond our findings as presently reported. This information appears to depict a broader, more complex organised criminal conspiracy to source human organs for illicit transplant, involving co-conspirators in at least three different foreign countries besides Kosovo, enduring over more than a decade. In particular, we found a number of credible, convergent indications that the organ-trafficking component of the post-conflict detentions described in our report is closely related to the contemporary case of the Medicus Clinic, not least through prominent Kosovar Albanian and international personalities who feature as co-conspirators in both. However, out of respect for the ongoing investigations and judicial proceedings being led by EULEX / the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Kosovo, we feel obliged at this moment to refrain from publishing our findings in this regard. Suffice to say, we encourage all the countries whose nationals appear in the indictment regarding Medicus to do their utmost to halt this shameful activity and assist in bringing its orchestrators and co-conspirators to justice.

5. Reflections on the "glass ceiling of accountability" in Kosovo

169. Our inquiry has found that there exists a "glass ceiling of accountability" with regard to the investigations currently being undertaken, and the indictments thus far issued, under the auspices of the Special Prosecutors' Office in Kosovo.

170. There seem to be two principal impediments to the quest for justice on behalf of the Kosovo people, as it is being led by the SPRK. The first problem is that the de facto reach of the investigations is carefully managed and restricted by the Kosovo authorities their collaboration with EULEX therefore suffers from a profound lack of confidence.

171. Second, these men would apparently rather accept justice in the courts for their alleged roles in the running of illicit detention camps and the trafficking of human organs, respectively, than implicate their former senior KLA commanders, upon whose authority they acted and who are now senior political figures.

172. The central impediment to achieving true justice for many Kosovars, therefore, seems to be the ancestral custom, which still prevails in some parts of society, of entrenched clan loyalty, or its equivalent in the sphere of organised crime. Even where the conspirators in question are not themselves members of the same clans or extended families, the allegiances they feel towards their criminal "bosses" are as unbreakable as any family bonds.

173. Therefore, Sabit Geqi will resolutely avoid implicating those truly responsible for the torture of civilian prisoners at Kukes, who have now become respectable public figures. Equally, Ilir Rrecaj will continue to accept the consequences of being a scapegoat for the irregular licensing and funding practices in respect of the Medicus clinic in Pristina, rather than point the finger at those who are truly responsible for this organised criminal activity in Kosovo's health sector.

174. The result is that political leaders can plausibly dismiss the allegations relating to KLA involvement in detention, torture and murder in Albania - serious allegations that deserve to be investigated, as we have seen, much more seriously than has been the case so far - as little more than a "spectacle" created by Serbian political propagandists.

6. Some concluding remarks

175. In concluding, we should once again recall that that this report has been drawn up in the wake of the revelations that appeared in the memoirs of the former Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY. Shocked by those disclosures, the Parliamentary Assembly entrusted us with the task of looking more closely into the allegations and the human rights violations said to have been committed in Kosovo in the material period. The elements reported in the former Prosecutor's book primarily concerned the alleged trafficking of human organs. Our difficult, sensitive investigations enabled us not only to substantiate those elements, but also to shed light on further, related allegations and to draw a very sombre, worrying picture of what took place, and is to some extent continuing to take place, in Kosovo. Our task was not to conduct an criminal investigation -we are not empowered to do so, and above all we lack the necessary resources - let alone to pronounce judgments of guilt or innocence.

176. The information we have gathered nonetheless concerns extremely grave events that took place in the very heart of Europe. The Council of Europe and its member states cannot remain indifferent to such a situation. We have shown that organised crime is a significant phenomenon in Kosovo. This is nothing new, and it is admittedly not exclusive to Kosovo. Organised crime is a dreadful problem in the region and also affects Serbia, Montenegro and Albania, to name but a few examples. There are also worrying, surprising links and affinities between the different groups involved. Moreover, such criminal groups seem to co-operate with each other far more effectively than the responsible national and international judicial authorities. We have highlighted and documented the shady, and in some cases open, connections between organised crime and politics, including representatives of the authorities; that too is nothing new, at least for those who have not sought to close their eyes and ears at all costs. The silence and the failure to react in the face of such a scandal is just as serious and unacceptable. We have not engaged in mere rumour-mongering, but have rather described events on the basis of multiple testimonies, documents and objective evidence. What we have uncovered is of course not completely unheard-of. The same or similar findings have long been detailed and condemned in reports by key intelligence and police agencies, albeit without having been followed up properly, because the authors' respective political masters have preferred to keep a low profile and say nothing, purportedly for reasons of "political expediency". But we must ask what interests could possibly justify such an attitude of disdain for all the values that are invariably invoked in public? Everyone in Kosovo is aware of what happened and of the current situation, but people do not talk about it, except in private; they have for years been waiting for the truth - the whole truth, rather than the official version - to be laid bare. Our sole aim today is to serve as spokespersons for those men and women from Kosovo, as well as those from Serbia and Albania, who, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, simply aspire to the truth and to an end to scandalous impunity, with no greater wish than to be able to live in peace. Truth and accountability are absolute necessities if there is to be genuine reconciliation and lasting stability in the region. In the course of our mission we met with persons of great valour - both local and international actors - who are fighting to overcome indifference and build a fairer society. They deserve not only our expressions of solidarity, but also our full and active support.

[1] The United States of America has an Embassy endowed with impressive resources and a military base, Camp Bondsteel, of a scale and significance that clearly transcends regional considerations.

[2] The "UNMIK legacy" was described to us in the form of a vivid image that scarcely requires further comment, as "300,000 pages in disarray".

[3] We learned that certain KFOR contributors (for example the United Kingdom) took all their records away with them; and that these records were subsequently made accessible to EULEX investigators only on the basis of reasoned case-by-case applications, a complex procedure which considerably slows down the work of justice.

[4] At the time of our visit in January 2010, EULEX investigators were not always able to access to the ICTY's files, but the ICTY Prosecutor is more recently reported to have assured EULEX that access would be granted imminently.

[5] The figures quoted here were provided by the Office of Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF), with regard to cases still unresolved at the beginning of 2010. The ICRC speaks of about 1000 missing persons after KFOR's arrival, most of them Serbs but also Albanian Kosovars regarded as "traitors".

[6] The Office for Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF) is currently co-headed by a EULEX official and a Kosovar official; this body was created, we were told, "to clean up the mess left behind by UNMIK and the ICTY".

[7] This difficulty was said to be most acute with regard to cases that arose during the period of "chaos" from June to late October 1999. KFOR soldiers were evidently unqualified to carry out police work and their crime scene reports were said to be mostly unusable.

[8] An example with which we were confronted during our fact-finding visit to Pristina concerned excavations in a mineshaft where some thirty bodies of deceased Serbs were said to be buried. The local construction companies employed to do the work were threatened by members of the local community, which caused considerable delay in carrying out the explorations. According to what we have been told, the prevailing attitude among the Kosovar population is to regard as a "traitor" anyone who provides information regarding mass graves containing Serb victims.

[9] EULEX investigators informed us that the level of co-operation from the Albanian authorities was "nil". The reply, after several months, to a request for international legal assistance (concerning the camp at Kukës) was that the requested investigations were "delayed by a natural disaster". Other international officials also confirmed the "strong resistance" of the Kosovar authorities to co-operating in efforts to solve cases of missing Serbs or alleged Kosovar Albanian "traitors". The consistent refrain of the Albanian authorities towards Albania never allowed exhumations in its territory. "There was no war here, so there are no graves to look for".

[10] There is said to exist some degree of reluctance even within the OMPF concerning the disappearances that occurred after 12 June 1999.

[11] Serge Brammertz, ICTY Chief Prosecutor, in a letter to me dated 17 December 2009. In an interview I had with Madam Carla Del Ponte in 2009, the former Chief Prosecutor assured me that the materials in question should be stored in the ICTY's archives and that their destruction was simply inconceivable.

[12] Such requests were made in March 2009 to the following countries: Belarus, Canada, Israel, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Russian Federation, and Turkey. At the time of writing, only Canada was said to have provided a satisfactory response.

[13] See the EULEX press release of 15 October 2010:; and the report by Nebi Qena (AP), 12 November 2010:

[14] See Expert Report quoted in the Limaj judgement.

[15] Carla del Ponte herself said of the Limaj trial that "the impunity that feeds upon fear was allowed to prevail": see del Ponte and Sudetic, The Hunt, Chapter 11: Confronting Kosovo, at page 26.

[16] The KLA had grown domestically throughout most of the 1990s by rallying the support of volunteer fighters - men of all ages in their respective villages - to coalesce around leaders like Adem Jashari and form small armed units, or "brigades" across the territory of Kosovo. Many of the recruits to this "homeland KLA", effectively a peasant army, undertook guerrilla warfare training at camps in northern Albania, and smuggled arms into Kosovo with which to undertake acts of violent resistance. Our inquiry received more than a dozen testimonies of ethnic Albanian males who had taken part in this campaign of "resistance". With the killing of Jashari and scores of his family members and associates in a clampdown by Serb security forces in1998, this initial incarnation of the KLA was effectively ended, and has gravitated into folklore as a romantic notion of Kosovar liberation, with Jashari as its martyr.

[17] The main rival political parties in recent election cycles have included the Democratic Party of Kosovo (Partia Demokratike e Kosovës, or PDK), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (Aleanca për Ardhmërinë e Kosovës, or AAK), both of which are led by commanders of former KLA "splinter groups" and count large number of former KLA operatives among their members.

[18] We have noted the remarkable confessions of a man named Nazim Bllaca, who came forward last year and testified as to the use of these intelligence structures in targeted killings and different forms of racketeering; Bllaca's depiction of this secret underworld is one we recognise from our own research.

[19] In this regard our findings correspond with those of international representatives of military and intelligence monitoring missions - from NATO's Kosovo Stabilisation Force (KFOR), to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - in reports published at various points over the last fifteen years.

[20] In Kosovo itself, the area of influence of the Drenica Group and its affiliates went on to extend far beyond that particular locale, however: they exercised firm control over criminal cartels active in municipalities including, but not limited to, Istok, Srbica, Skenderaj, Klina, Prizren and Pristina.

[21] See Le Monde 11 December 2010.

[22] Thaqi was, for example, named as head delegate of the Kosovar Albanians to the Rambouillet Summit.

[23] For example, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a report in spring 1999 that drug smuggling organisations composed of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians were considered "second only to Turkish gangs as the predominant heroin smugglers along the Balkan route".

[24] These are the German (BND), Italian (Sismi), British (MI6) and Greek (EYP) intelligence services.

[25] See, e.g., the report of the IEP (Institut für Europäische Politik, Berlin) of 9 January 2007 prepared for the German Federal Ministry of Defence ("Operationalisierung von Security Sector Reform (SSR) auf dem Westlichen Balkan - intelligente/kreative Ansätze für eine langfristig positive Gestaltung dieser Region"); document classified as secret and yet accessible on Internet; at page 57 the authors indicate that "Thaqi is considered, in security circles, as much more dangerous than Haradinaj, who as former head of KLA possesses a wider international network." (my own translation) Another report of the German secret service (Bundesnachrichtendienst/BND), similarly available on Internet (BND Analyse vom 22.02.2005), names Messrs Thaqi, Lluka and Haradinaj as key personalities of organised crime in Kosovo and explores in particular, in 27 pages of thorough analysis, the ramifications of the "Drenica Group". We did not limit ourselved to the study of these reports, and other sources, but we interviewed a number of persons who had been involved, at ground level, in the preparation of these reports.

[26] Fatmir Limaj, a former senior-ranking KLA commander, was indicted, tried and ultimately acquitted by the ICTY in a trial that encountered many problems with the integrity of evidence.

[27] In the course of the last ten years, intelligence services from several Western European countries, law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, and analysts of several nationalities working within NATO structures have prepared authoritative, well-sourced, corroborated reports on the unlawful activities of this "Drenica Group".

[28] At a minimum, there is solid documentary evidence to demonstrate the involvement of this group, and its financial sponsors, in money laundering, smuggling of drugs and cigarettes, human trafficking, prostitution, and the violent monopolisation of Kosovo's largest economic sectors including vehicle fuel and construction.

[29] Primarily these funds had been generated through contributions from the Kosovo Diaspora, and were held in foreign bank accounts, including in Germany and Switzerland. The finances available to Thaqi's inner circle increased dramatically with the creation of a dedicated KLA fund known as Atdheu Thërret ("Homeland Calls").

[30] It is apt that I should acknowledge the excellent journalistic investigation of the Balkan Insight Reporters' Network (BIRN), which reported on elements of the KLA's network of detention camps in Albania in April 2009 (Altin Raxhimi, Vladimir Karaj, and Michael Montgomery).

[31] While Thaqi attended the University of Pristina and became identified as a leader in the Kosovar Albanian student movement, Muja studied cardiology at the University of Tirana and associated himself with the more militant elements of the Albanian resistance to Serb oppression in Kosovo.

[32] Muja was the overall "Medical Co-ordinator" for the KLA General Staff, a post in which he oversaw the provision of medical treatment for wounded KLA soldiers, as well as other emergency cases in KLA operational zones. Muja notably made use of the Military Hospital in Tirana, Albania, and administered extensive supplies and equipment acquired by the KLA through foreign donations. During 1998 and 1999, as the official representative of the KLA, supported by elements in the Albanian Army and the Albanian secret services, Muja also administered a diverse array of other infrastructure: at least one helicopter; several well-funded construction projects; and makeshift accommodation arrangements - including private houses and apartments - for KLA commanders, recruits and affiliates who travelled into Albania from overseas, including those en route to Kosovo.

[33] Muja acted both as the Health / Medical Co-ordinator for the Provisional Government of Kosovo, under provisional Prime Minister Thaqi, and as Commander of the 40th Medical Battalion of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC).

[34] At the time of writing, in December 2010, Shaip Muja serves in the administration of Hashim Thaqi as a senior Political Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility inter alia for the Health portfolio.

[35] Muja is widely credited, for example, with having played a role in the introduction of a "telemedicine" system to Kosovo, whereby health and surgical services can be administered with the assistance of doctors in remote locations, using Internet technology to link the participants.

[36] The combined influence of Muja and Veseli in this regard endured through the transitional phase of the Kosovo Protection Corps; both men were central to the design of the intelligence structures and strategic decision-making mechanisms inside the PDK party. Among the external parties they are reported to have engaged are members of the Albanian secret services, American private military and security companies, and Israeli intelligence experts.

[37] The estimated 40 persons does not include persons who were held at Durres on a basis so fleeting that their detention lasted only as long as it took KLA intelligence officers to conduct an interrogation.

[38] The military grouping styled as Forcat e Armatosura të Republikës së Kosovës, or FARK ("Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo"), was nominally fighting for the same cause of liberation as the KLA, but was treated by KLA commanders as an adversary, with contempt and suspicion. FARK was politically aligned with the LDK, and envisaged as the defence arm of the Government-in-exile of Bujar Bukoshi. Unlike the KLA, FARK was built around a core of experienced military officers, ethnic Albanians who had served in the Army of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. KLA commanders were highly suspicious of FARK and sought to suppress its recruitment of new fighters and supplies of arms and ammunitions. The KLA detained numerous persons, especially civilians in northern Albania close to the Kosovo border, on the accusation that they supported FARK and were therefore disloyal to the KLA cause.

[39] Geqi and Alija were arrested, in May 2010 and June 2010 respectively, and have been indicted for war crimes against the civilian population. While there is also substantial evidence against the third suspect in this regard, Krasniqi, he remains a fugitive at the time of writing and therefore cannot be subject to charges under Kosovo criminal procedure. Pending Krasniqi's apprehension, and the efficient administration of justice, the trial of all three men should take place either in the District Court of Pristina or the District Court of Mitrovica in early 2011.

[40] Our KLA sources told us that Cahan was in fact an operational staging point for KLA advances over the mountainous border into Kosovo. KLA fighters stationed at Cahan are renowned for having launched "Operation Aero", a rare incursion into Serb-held territory in late May 1999.

[41] In the interests of balance, I should point out that some reporting of this fear on the part of the captives has tended to dramatise the facts unduly. For example, we have found no basis for the allegation that certain victims had one kidney removed before being "sewn up" again, detained for another period, and then finally having the second kidney removed.

[42] The proprietor's collusion with networks who trafficked sex workers, illegal immigrants to Europe, and contraband items including drugs and weapons eventually led him to be arrested by Albanian law enforcement officials; although there does not appear to have been any connection with crimes carried out in the KLA network.

[43] Contrary to the widespread scepticism as to whether the underlying operations involved in organ-trafficking could have been performed in Albania in the period 1999-2000, our experts whom we consulted directly not only found it perfectly plausible that this methodology had been used, but were aware of analogous, similarly illicit enterprises in which cadaver extractions were found to have been performed.