The phrase ‘harvesting of kidneys’ is sufficiently evocative to make even the most ravenous traveler put down his British Airways sandwich. But when I read this story on the flight back from Kosovo to Britain last week, I barely paused before tucking in. Strange, perhaps, because the story is quite attention-grabbing. The allegations are that organised criminals harvested the kidneys of poor locals (and willing donors from nearby Turkey and Albania) and arranged for wealthy foreigners to visit Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city, in order to implant the organs. More shocking still are allegations that during the conflict with Serbia, the Kosovo Liberation Army sold the organs of prisoners. Indeed, there have even been forceful allegations that Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other key members of the PDK-led government were directly involved in the trade.
So why my continued feeding frenzy? Well, hunger obviously played a part. Anyone who really wants to eat a cheese and onion wrap is clearly in need of sustenance. But the main reason is that this story is dragging on and has now become so politicised that it’s almost impossible to work out what has actually happened. Allegations of politician-sponsored criminality of this kind are seen by many as straightforward attempts to undermine Thaci’s government and Kosovo’s ambitions of achieving universal recognition as a sovereign state. And indeed a large proportion of the Council of Europe appear to be unhappy with the lack of concrete evidence to support the bolder claims in the EU’s December 2010 report. Still, there is some dirt here and it needs to be investigated. Who was involved in the scandal remains open to debate – but the fact that there were instances of medical misdemeanours and probably human trafficking is now almost indisputable.