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Serbia finds Kosovo organ trafficking 'witnesses': report

27 December 2009, 18:27 CET
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(BELGRADE) - Serbia has tracked down people who claim to have witnessed the removal of organs from prisoners captured in Kosovo which were then allegedly trafficked abroad, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Investigators are probing claims organs were removed from hundreds of prisons -- mainly Kosovo Serbs -- who were kidnapped in Kosovo and taken to Albania in the summer of 1999, just after the end of the conflict in the territory.

Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told the newspaper Blic on Sunday about the latest development and hailed it an advance in the investigation.

"We have made big progress.... We have discovered the names of people who were present while operations were carried out on the people who had been kidnapped," he said.

"We have already interviewed some of these people but we have also noticed some of these potential witnesses harbour a great fear," he said.

Investigators had managed to make contact with "credible" people willing to help them, Vukcevic added.

The prosecutor said he had passed details about the discovery to the Council of Europe's envoy, Dick Marty, who is investigating the allegations.

The claims first arose in the memoirs published last year of former UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, which prompted the Council of Europe to reopen the case briefly investigated by her office five years ago.

She alleged the prisoners were taken to Albania by ethnic Albanians, and their organs were then trafficked abroad.

The leaders of Kosovo -- a territory which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian -- have rejected the allegations several times.

The 1998-1999 conflict between Kosovo guerrillas and forces loyal to late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic left around 10,000 people dead.

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