Forty inmates disappeared from the Stimlje mental asylum in 2001
Shortly after the Kosovo War ended in June 1999, harrowing reports began to surface about atrocities committed by both the ethnic-Albanian-led Kosovo Liberation Army and Yugoslav-Serbian forces. Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s trial later confirmed that crimes against humanity took place during the conflict, while reports of revenge attacks carried out by ethnic Albanian rebels against the Serb minority in Kosovo, then an autonomous part of what was left of Yugoslavia, highlighted the level of brutality that unfolded in the war’s aftermath. Now comes another sordid accusation to open up an old wound between the bitter rivals.
Last week, Serbian prosecutors announced that a number of mental patients who disappeared after the Kosovo War may have been victims of an organ-trafficking network set up in neighbouring Albania. Bruno Vekaric, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, told the Associated Press that the mysterious disappearance of 40 people in 2001 from a mental hospital in the southern Kosovo town of Stimlje may have been linked to the alleged organ-trafficking ring. Vekaric added that Serbian authorities have “reliable evidence [that] fits the picture that something gruesome was going on in Albania.”
To back up their claim, Serbian authorities are also pointing to a report released earlier this year entitled “The Hunt: War Criminals and Me.” In the report, former chief UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte wrote that more than 300 people who were kidnapped and transported to Albania have never been seen since, and that reports suggest they were victims of an organ harvesting operation. She stopped short, however, of identifying the source of those reports. The government of now-independent Kosovo refutes the claim, calling it “mere speculation from Belgrade.”