Albanian villagers block CoE team


Albanian villagers prevented Council of Europe (CoE) officials from conducting an investigation into the trafficking of human organs, Albanian media reported.

Former Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte mentioned in her book published last year that the home of the Katuci family and the village of Rripe in north Albania was the possible location where organs were harvested from kidnapped Kosovo Serb civilians in 1999.

“Residents of the village of Rripe blocked the road for two hours on Monday and stopped the Council of Europe investigators from coming into the home without a warrant from the Albanian prosecution,” television station News 24 reported.

AFP reports that “witnesses and television pictures from the village of Rripe in the north-central Mat region showed angry villagers blocking the visitors in a two-hour standoff”.

The agency also said that the CoE team came accompanied by Albanian justice ministry officials.

According to Del Ponte’s book, the Katuci home, known as the “Yellow House,” was used to harvest the organs that would later be sold in the black market abroad.

“They did not show us a warrant, and we did not know who they were, especially because they were not accompanied by an Albanian prosecutor,” the owner of the house, Abdulla Katuci was quoted.

“The Hague Tribunal led an investigation and didn’t find anything in 2002 and 2003, and now they are starting to besiege us,” he also said. According to reports, the Katucis has “for years said that they never harmed anyone”.

AFP reminds that UN investigators searched the Katuci house thoroughly in 2004 for evidence of organ harvesting, discovering blood stains, gauze in the garbage area and, dug out from an area near the river flowing below the meadow, syringes.

“Villagers would not let them dig up graves in the local cemetery to exhume bodies, saying relatives were buried there, and the case was dropped for lack of evidence,” the report says.

In Tirana, Council of Europe officials said that they did not want to comment on media reports about the Rripe standoff.

Dick Marty, CoE rapporteur assigned to the case, was not present at the village on Monday. He spent two days in Tirana after visiting Belgrade and Priština.

Last year, the Albanian Justice Ministry rejected a demand from Serbia to conduct an investigation stating that “the demand was not in accordance with the criteria called for by the CoE conventions,” because it is “based only on claims from Carla Del Ponte’s book”.

Accroding to Beta news agency, Albanian justice authorities said on Monday that country was “open” to all demands for investigation which are in accordance with international conventions, stating that the Serbian demand “was not”.

Last week, it was reported that Albania rejected to cooperate in “foreign investigations”.

Based on photographs, the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution has identified 10 possible executors and one victim – Predrag Dragovi, a native of Peć.

The prosecution believes that in 1999, hundreds of Kosovo Serb civilians were kidnapped in the province by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and taken to northern Albania where their organs were removed before they were killed.

Other than the Yellow House Del Ponte’s book also mentions three other locations in northern Albanian at which organ harvesting was allegedly conducted.

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