US prosecutor Clint Williamson has reported that he has uncovered “compelling indications of crimes against humanity” committed by leaders of the Albanians Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia, including the killing of minorities including captive Roma and Serbs, so that their organs could be harvested and sold on the international black market.
The Kosovo War, which lasted from February 28, 1998 until June 11, 1999, was contested between armies from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (made up of the Republics of Montenegro and Serbia) which controlled Kosovo before the war. During the final months of the conflict the KLA was given controversial air support by NATO as well as ground support from the Albanian army. The war finally ended with the signing of the Kumanovo Treaty, which had Yugoslav forces agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo to make way for an international presence. At that time the KLA was disbanded with a number of its members going on to fight for the UÇPMB (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit), a militant group of separatists fighting for independence from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the Preševo Valley. Others reportedly continued to fight in both the National Liberation Army (NLA) and Albanian National Army (ANA) during the armed ethnic fighting that ensued in Macedonia, while some formed the Kosovo Police department.
Although the evidence points to less than 10 cases involving planned organ trafficking, Williamson issued a videotaped message to reporters at a news conference in Brussels stating that, “the fact that it occurred on a limited scale does not diminish the savagery of such a crime.”
Williamson was appointed by the European Union in 2011 to conduct the investigation. Although more evidence needs to be gathered before formal charges can be brought against the KLA leaders for these acts, indictments are being prepared on other charges concerning “sexual violence, extrajudicial killings and abductions.”
“We believe that there is compelling evidence that these crimes were not the acts of rogue individuals, but rather sanctioned by certain individuals in the top level of the KLA leadership based on the widespread and systematic manner in which they were conducted, justifying a move to prosecute these men for crimes against humanity.”
The news was lauded by Vladimir Vukcevic, war crimes prosecutor for Serbia, who told the Associated Press that Williamson’s conclusions proved that his country was “right” when they claimed that organ trafficking took place during the war. The matter will not be turned over to a special court to be established by the European Union.