ICMPD Files Lawsuit Against NGO to Correct False Allegations

PeopleOther ♦ Published: May 9, 2023; 16:47 ♦ (Vindobona)

The conflict between the Viennese NGO SOS Balkan Route and the international organization International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) over the construction of a deportation center including a prison in the Bosnian refugee camp Lipa has a legal aftermath. ICMPD wants to correct the accusations that have made the rounds in the Austrian media.

In the Lipa refugee camp in Bosnia, a deportation center, including a prison, is being built. / Picture: © SOS Balkanroute

The NGO SOS Balkan Route and its founder Petar Rosandic are now accused of spreading messages and posts on social media since April 5 after SOS Balkanroute referred to ICMPD's facility as "the Austrian Guantanamo in Bosnia" and vividly described the fate of refugees who were mistreated during pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as reported by Vindobona.org. In addition, ICMPD was characterized as a "People's Party (ÖVP)-affiliated organization."

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) has now filed a lawsuit against the NGO SOS Balkanroute for damaging its reputation in the Vienna Commercial Court. According to ORF, an ICMPD spokesperson stated to APA that they do not want to restrict freedom of speech or apply financial pressure, but rather aim to stop the continuous spread of false claims.

The spokesperson stated according to ORF, "We have chosen the legal process of filing a lawsuit for injunction and revocation because we have been subjected to repeated damage to our reputation. To minimize the financial burden, we have not made any monetary demands, such as compensation." Furthermore, they stated that they have adhered to the lower legal framework for the assessment required to exhaust the full appeal process.

ICMPD Director General Michael Spindelegger had already dismissed the accusations as "complete nonsense" in mid-April, as reported by ORF. He stated, "There is an allegation that people are taken to a camp allegedly established by us after being pushed back at the Croatian border, where they are then detained with human rights violations. This is completely untrue. In no case is anyone accommodated in the facility we have built there because it is not yet operational."

The ICMPD explained the reason for the lawsuit, stating that the messages and posts are "generally misleading, incomplete, and partially untrue and damaging to our reputation." Various aspects of ICMPD's role and task are "misrepresented," they added.

Specifically, they noted that the facility's extension was carried out on behalf of the European Union, and ICMPD is not the operator of the facility but only its builder. The facility can accommodate twelve people who can be held there for a maximum of 72 hours.

"Numerous claims in this regard also constitute defamation by alleging that ICMPD is forcing people's suffering and disregarding the rule of law," the ICMPD said.

They further emphasized that ICMPD "is an international organization without any political affiliation." This is evidenced by the fact that it is supported by 19 countries, including Turkey, Germany, Portugal, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.