Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Warzone business opportunities or Why Kill 'Em If you can't Use 'Em

/ balkan mortuary /

Tales of organ trafficking by the KLA during the Kosovo campaign surfaced recently:

BELGRADE, Serbia: Serbia's war crimes prosecutor is looking into reports that dozens of Serbs captured by rebels during the war in Kosovo were killed so their organs could be trafficked, the prosecutor's office said Friday.

The Serbian prosecutor's office said it received "informal statements" from investigators at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, that dozens of Serbs imprisoned by Kosovo Albanian rebels were taken to neighboring Albania in 1999 and killed so their organs could be harvested and sold to international traffickers.

Bruno Vekaric, the Serbian prosecutor's spokesman, said later on B92 radio that Serbian war crimes investigators have also received their own information about alleged organ trafficking, but not enough for a court case. Vekaric said Serb investigators also received reports suggesting there might be mass graves in Albania containing the bodies of the Serb victims.

Serbian media reported that the issue was brought into the open in a book written by former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that is to be published in Italy on April 3.

According to Serbia's Beta news agency, which carried parts of the book in Serbian, Del Ponte said her investigators had been informed that some 300 Serbs were killed for organ trafficking.

The Beta report quoted Del Ponte as saying in the book that her investigators were told the imprisoned Serbs were first taken to prison camps in northern Albania where the younger ones were picked out, and their organs were later sold abroad.

Here's the more detailed story from Belgrade's B92 and here is the story in Jurist.

To this Doug Muir responded over at A Fistful of Euros claiming that the story is unlikely on a number of grounds. While it is a matter of speculation and no one can positively determine that the crimes described did indeed happen, all of Doug's points seem moot to me:

- DM claims that 300 Serbs is over a half of all missing Serbs; this is debatable. The Serb side is claiming that over 3000 Kosovar Serbs are missing, but even if we are talking about a total of 400 missing, it doesn't stretch imagination much to picture an organized operation in which prisoners were directed to such camps - anyway the IHT article quoted above speaks of "dozens" of Serb prisoners. Other sources state that the number seems to be "at least 100" or "two trucks full of people". Thus, even if 300 is an inflated number (which it might well be) this does not disallow the possibility of the gist of the story being true.

- DM suggests that the great difficulty of disposing 300 bodies and of keeping silent about it afterwards makes the story unlikely. He compares the situation with the fact that the Serbian state didn't manage to keep secret neither the executions or the mass graves of abducted Albanian Kosovars. He thus seems to mistake state efficiency in Serbia and Albania with Mob efficiency (in either of these countries actually). Since the organ snatchers, if indeed they existed, would have to be connected with the mob, this isn't much of a problem. I'm sure that neither disposing 300 people a year or, much more, convincing people to remain silent about it, is something that is way beyond the capabilities of any self-respecting Mafia (see John Stanfa on corpse-disposal technique).

- Doug also suggests that the Albanian government would have to be complicit in such an operation. Not at all. Trafficking in people, including cases of organ snatching, already occur and have been occurring for way over a decade in much of the developing world and Eastern Europe, certainly including both Albania and Kosovo, and certainly without government complicity in most cases. In fact a few years ago a Greek-Albanian organ smuggling ring (mentioned here) was, according to investigations, active in Greek and Albanian hospitals and smuggled human organs through diplomatic pouch, having certain Albanian diplomats on the payroll as well. This was certainly neither done with the assistance or help of the Albanian government (DM brushes off a bit too lightly the connection between Berisha the Socialist Party and the KLA,but that's another story). I remind everybody that the border at the time we're talking about was quite porous with refugees coming in and out of Albania.

- The idea that this is a really difficult process, given the assistance of organizations that are superb smugglers of goods and people, have access to hospitals and doctors and very fast vehicles of all types, seems likewise an exaggeration. Again any decent-sized mafia could easily pull this over. Otherwise there would be no illegal organ trafficking trade at all. Something which is not the case.

Thus, while I agree that this is very far from proven, I'm much less confident that the whole story can be dismissed as "probably bullshit". If the story is totally bogus what in the world could make Carla Del Ponte of all people, include it in her book? And neither of Doug's two alternative scenarios regarding the "yellow house" is plausible IMHO. Firstly because no one in Albania would deny involvement in setting up a hospital for the KLA (which anyway could easily be disguised as a hospital for fleeing Kosovars) and secondly because the "torture-camp" idea, as Doug himself notes, doesn't explain why anybody would do this in Albania rather than on the field in Kosovo.

Two things to add:

1. The story itself is important in a sense that has little to do with whether it is actually true: This is an innovation, an idea that merges seamlessly with the current zeitgeist of market-driven-everything. It is a brilliant way to make a direct profit from what are usually considered to be martial waste products. The idea is so good that I'm willing to bet that if Dick Cheney has heard about it, having already dispensed with the most of the provisions of the Geneva conventions, he has his legal team turning the idea into some sort of non-biddable contract for KBR to sign, giving it full authorization for the expedient trafficking salvaging of usable organs from terrorists and other Arabs. This has the potential to be something that is praised in the OpEd columns of the WSJ, blessed by various US congregations and sold as some form of yet another triumph in the annals of ghoulishness graverobbing colonialism humanitarian-war. Similarly, smaller markets could emerge, as a vast array of mafias big and small will be rushing to war zones with medical trucks, doctors and nurses, in order to utilize the soon to be remains of those about to die. Thus, both legal and black market supply of organs will increase. The only problem will be keeping supplies of bootleg organs at low enough levels as to not effect prices by much. Everybody (that matters, anyway) wins! $$$$$$!!!! € € € € €!!!!!

2. Regardless of the plausibility and validity of the scenario, one can be certain that, had Carla Del Ponte heard of any similar reports of organ trafficking in 1999, but from the other side, i.e. were the accused body snatchers Serbs, with exactly the same evidence to back this up:

a. It would be out in the open well before CDP decided to write a book.
b. A Hollywood film about it would already have been released with a star cast and presented as fact
c. The alleged center of detention and organ snatching would be by now a byword for modern evil, casually referred to as such by pundits on both sides of the Atlantic.
d. The people claiming that the story was "possibly bullshit" would be dismissed as pro-Milosevic patsies or something like that.
e. I'd be writing a similar post complaining that were the perpetrators of the alleged crimes, anything other than Serbs and were the victims Serbs, people would dismiss the story as not very plausible and in fact it would barely make the news.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Covert War in Palestine

/ making civil wars /
A small price (for others) to pay for building democracy no doubt:
The Gaza Bombshell:
"Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories

/ simple truths /
This report: A/HRC/7/17 of 21 January 2008, was presented to the UN Human Rights Council by Special Rapporteur John Dugard, a South African legal scholar and 1980s anti-apartheid activist. From the report, which is of significant relevance given the current situation in Occupied Palestine, I would like to highlight the following very clear and very insightful assessment:

...Terrorism is a scourge, a serious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. No attempt is made in the reports to minimize the pain and suffering it causes to victims, their families and the broader community. Palestinians are guilty of terrorizing innocent Israeli civilians by means of suicide bombs and Qassam rockets. Likewise the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are guilty of terrorizing innocent Palestinian civilians by military incursions, targeted killings and sonic booms that fail to distinguish between military targets and civilians. All these acts must be condemned and have been condemned.3 Common sense, however, dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by Al Qaeda, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation. While such acts cannot be justified, they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation. History is replete with examples of military occupation that have been resisted by violence - acts of terror. The German occupation was resisted by many European countries in the Second World War; the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) resisted South Africa's occupation of Namibia; and Jewish groups resisted British occupation of Palestine - inter alia, by the blowing up of the King David Hotel in 1946 with heavy loss of life, by a group masterminded by Menachem Begin, who later became Prime Minister of Israel. Acts of terror against military occupation must be seen in historical context. This is why every effort should be made to bring the occupation to a speedy end. U ntil this is done peace cannot be expected, and violence will continue. In other situations, for example Namibia, peace has been achieved by the ending of occupation, without setting the end of resistance as a precondition. Israel cannot expect perfect peace and the end of violence as a precondition for the ending of the occupation.

... A further comment on terrorism is called for. In the present international climate it is easy for a State to justify its repressive measures as a response to terrorism - and to expect a sympathetic hearing. Israel exploits the present international fear of terrorism to the full. But this will not solve the Palestinian problem. Israel must address the occupation and the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law it engenders, and not invoke the justification of terrorism as a distraction, as a pretext for failure to confront the root cause of Palestinian violence - the occupation.