Human rights advocates, ICPS: Illegal searches in International Center for Policy Studies is authorities’ attempt to monopolize truth

Office of the International Center for Policy Studies (ICPS) was searched on April 13. According to the investigators, it was caused by ICPS activities related to finding peaceful way to settle conflict in Donbas. Employees and lawyers of the Center treat such actions of investigative authorities as attack at freedom of speech, said Vasyl Filipchuk, diplomat and Chair of the Board of NGO International Center for Policy Studies during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to him, ICPS has been working upon this topic since the beginning of the conflict and repeatedly sent a message to politicians and public officials. “We don’t keep our vision of the ways of settling the conflict in Donbas secret. During our international contacts, we could see huge interest the foreign diplomatic corps was showing to ideas able to enhance the Minsk process and get it working in practice. Instead of learning what these books and researches say […], we faced searches in our office,” said Filipchuk.

Computer equipment and documents were seized from the office with no inventory made. Employees were locked on the premises, and neither lawyers nor doctors were admitted there. “Representatives of Alfa special forces, Security Service officers, prosecutors were present during the search, but no lawyers. […] What can we say when journalists and scientists are being searched for the idea of peace? It is what judge’s ruling said. Twenty law enforcement officers were looking for this idea,” said lawyer Leonid Sivakov. “The employees were trying to call their families for several hours to inform why they were still at work after office hours. They were denied either this possibility or any legal aid. This is unacceptable both from legal and human point of view,” added lawyer Kyrylo Kazak. “The employees were locked for four hours, having no access to fresh air, being given no possibility to use legal assistance, regardless of numerous requests. We couldn’t inform our families or let them know what was happening,” said Olha Holubieva, director of NGO International Center for Policy Studies. Human right advocates treat it as an attack at freedom of speech and authorities’ desire to “monopolize the truth”. “These actions are nothing but desire to proclaim monopoly in the ideas market and treat the state doctrine as the only true. […] These actions attack a basic freedom – freedom of expression. Such disproportionate intervention of authorities into analytical centers’ activity is an attempt to monopolize the truth,” said Yevhen Zakharov, director of Kharkiv Human Rights Group. “Searches at ICPS office are in line with a dangerous trend of putting national security above human rights. It is thought possible to violate human rights for the benefit of the national interests. This is a threatening tendency. Political regime which violates human rights is self defeating,” emphasized Zakharov.

“The Center has been working for a long time, last few years to solve any given problems from the analytical viewpoint. In 2015-2016 alone over 30 projects of ours were wanted by various agencies and served the cause of Ukraine,” said Viktor Mashtabei, Chair of the ICPS Supervisory Board.