The Story Ends, Almost

Elira Canga Gurre

Completing the Albanian part of her fellowship investigation has been far from easy, finds Elira Canga.

Mersin Katuci in front of the so-called ‘Yellow House’ in Gurre of Mat in north-eastern Albania

I have written my story already and submitted it to the fellowship selection panel, but writing it wasn’t really an easy mission. My last trip was to Gurre of Mat in Albania. I went to the infamous ‘Yellow House’ where the Katuci family have lived for decades.

The house is mentioned in Carla Del Ponte memoir Madame Prosecutor and also in Dick Marty’s report on alleged organ trafficking. Both claim the KLA detained captured ethnic Serbs and Albanians regarded as disloyal here, and that many prisoners may have been subject to serious abuse in the house or in the vicinity of it during and immediately after war in Kosovo, in 1999-2000.

Away from the main road, this house, now painted white rather than yellow, is hidden between hills in the remote village of Burrel, around 100 kilometres from Tirana, the Albanian capital. Members of the family are welcoming if reserved on what they say about their main problem for years: alleged involvement in war crimes as Del Ponte’s book and Marty’s  report allege.

“Many reporters keep coming here since 2004, we’re fed up with them,” says Mersin Katuci, son of Abdullah Katuci, the owner of the house.

What about the investigators?

“We have had only foreign investigators and in several cases we didn’t let them examine the house because we know they want to link us to these horrible crimes,” he answers.

 “The Albanian state is not taking care of us, we want Albanian investigators to come here and control the house, we don’t trust the foreigners,” he adds nervously.

This seems an unlikely prospect as a special task force has been created under the auspices of EULEX, the European Union’s rule of law mission to investigate the allegations contained in Dick Marty’s report. The unit is headed by a newly-appointed American prosecutor.

On the other hand, this task force will need the Albanian authorities cooperation, but EULEX’s head of war crimes unit, Maati Raatikainen,  told me in an interview several weeks ago that, apart from the good will expressed time after time, Tirana has not been very collaborative regarding this issue to date.

“We have sent a request for collaboration and never had an answer from them,” he said. 

There has been no poll or public opinion study on whether Albanians believe there is any substance to claims that war crimes were committed in Albania, but when talking to ordinary people it becomes very clear no one thinks these allegations have any substance.

This should not be a matter of individual judgement or opinion. Albania and Albanians need an impartial investigation to determine once and for all what is fact and what is fiction. Trouble is, when will that happen?

Elira Canga is a Tirana-based journalist who is participating in the 2011 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

She will be writing regular updates on her investigation into how public recognition of war crimes in the Balkans and across Europe.

Fellow Bio

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Elira Çanga

Elira Çanga is a journalist based in Tirana, Albania. She currently works as a regional and international editor for the daily national newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare. 

Topic

Topic 2011: Justice

The topic for this year’s programme is justice and fellows are investigating subjects as diverse as privatisation, organised crime, employment law, rape convictions and extradition treaties.

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