Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, told reporters last Monday: "Serious and credible allegations have emerged about horrible abuses in Kosovo and Albania after the war." He was referring to fresh allegations that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had harvested human organs from several hundred Serb prisoners at a special "clinic" in Burrel, Albania. 


The allegations came to light in a new book by Carla del Ponte, former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Del Ponte’s book, published in Italian, is entitled "The Hunt: War Criminals and Me."


The allegations come as ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo struggle to secure international recognition for their self-proclaimed independence from Serbia. The separatists are led by KLA leader Hashim Thaci, who assumed the office of Kosovo’s Prime Minister in January.

The Albanian government says del Ponte's allegations are "immoral inventions". Kosovo's justice minister announced that there wouldn’t be an investigation because, in his words, "These are pure fabrications by del Ponte or by Serbia itself."


Albania has long been known as a hot spot in the illicit trade of human organs, and the missing Serb prisoners are likely just the tip of the iceberg in a much larger scandal that could involve the murder of thousands by ethnic Albanian organ traffickers.


Italian police first became aware of illegal organ trafficking from Albania in 1997 when a young Albanian boy was found with a large scar in the renal area of his back. According to an Italian government report, Albanian immigrants were behind the trafficking. [1]


Reports published in Italian newspaper Il Giornale described Italian authorities intercepting Albanian speedboats racing across the Adriatic with eye-retinas and kidneys freshly removed from human bodies and prepared according to all the necessary medical conditions.


In 1998, London’s Observer newspaper published a shocking expose detailing a massive black market trade in human organs taken from children and infants in Albania. UNICEF told the Observer that hundreds of children simply vanished from the Albanian highlands during the late 1990s. The report said, "There have been many cases of dead new-born babies being discovered on rubbish dumps in Tirana" and that "It is widely thought that most of the missing babies are stolen from mothers who are told they are stillborn."


Arben Rakipi, Albania's then-attorney-general, told the Observer "We could be talking about hundreds of stolen babies here, of doctors being involved in the trade and of a network that extends to Italy, Greece and Macedonia." [2]


The "babies scandal," as the Albanian media named it, became known when gravediggers in a public cemetery near Tirana discovered that some coffins, of allegedly buried stillborns, were empty. [3]


In 2004 the Greek Embassy in Tirana published an explosive report detailing the illegal Albanian organ trade. [4] The Greek report said that children were snatched from their families in various parts of Albania or sold, in many cases for the price of a television set. The victims, many of them disabled, were taken to special "clinics" in Durres and Fier to have their organs removed.


According to the Greek report, the organ smuggling began in 1994 and Albanian children with special needs were the primary source of black market organs. The children’s organs were often removed with the permission of parents or the directors of orphanages and institutions where the children were hospitalized.


The Greek report accused Albanian Government officials of smuggling the stolen organs to Western Europe in diplomatic bags, which are not subject to customs control.


Women forced into sexual slavery are thought to be another source of black market organs. Thousands of women are held captive for sexual slavery in Kosovo. According to one witness, when the enslaved women are no longer sexually attractive they are killed and their organs are harvested and sold on the black market. [5]

In 2003 Elizabeth Rehn, the former U.N. undersecretary general and special rapporteur for human rights in the Balkans, gave an interview to the Washington Post where she described the trafficking of young females in the Balkans for sexual slavery and organ trafficking. Rehn accused the international community of turning a blind-eye to the problem because diplomats, workers at non-governmental organizations, police officers and religious group employees are among the pimps' biggest clients. [6]


Rehn's assertions are backed-up by a 2004 report from Amnesty International, which found that the international troop presence generates 80% of the income for pimps and brothel owners in Kosovo. [7]


The murder of hundreds of Serbian prisoners at the hands of KLA "surgeons" is a tragedy in its own right, but the number of Serbian victims is probably minimal compared to the number of newborn babies, retarded children, and used-up sex slaves who met the same fate.


The Albanian mafia has been harvesting human organs since 1994. Although nobody knows the precise number of victims, thousands may have been systematically butchered and sold piece by piece like old cars in a salvage yard.




1 - Calgary Herald (Final Edition); July 18, 1997, Friday, Pg. A15; Body part trade puzzles Italians: Report of kidnapped boy found with scar on back


2 - The Observer (London); October 25, 1998, Pg. 27; World: Hidden trade in babies' organs


3 - Agence France Presse (English); October 17, 1998 15:31 GMT; Albanian prosecutors investigate baby traffic to Italy: report


4 - The Greek Embassy’s report was re-printed in the May 11, 2004 edition of the Athens newspaper Ta Nea.


5 - Kurir (Belgrade); April 28, 2008; Animals


6 - The Washington Post (Final Edition); October 1, 2003, Wednesday, Pg. A16; Taking Aim at Exploitation, Enslavement Of Women


7 - The Guardian (London) - Final Edition; May 7, 2004; NATO force 'feeds Kosovo sex trade'