Declaration on Whistleblower Rights: The Future of Anti-Corruption

Although more than 50 countries around the world have passed whistleblower protection laws, employees who report crimes and corruption still routinely face retaliation. More than three quarters of these victim witnesses lose their retaliation cases, according to new research. Meanwhile, most laws contain debilitating loopholes, and most whistleblower protection officials admit they can’t or won’t do their job.

With these messages as a backdrop, opinion leaders and activists gathered at the World Justice Forum to unite around a strong statement in support of whistleblowers’ rights. Forty participants from more than 20 countries gathered in The Hague on May 31 to draft a “Statement on whistleblower rights.” Among the leaders present at the session were former UN Under-Secretary-General Hans Corell and former Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

The Declaration was initiated by International denunciation from The Hague and the National whistleblower center of Washington, DC. Advocacy groups presented a draft to Forum participants, who then provided input into the final version.

“We are thrilled to see such an important initiative to expand whistleblower rights take shape at the World Justice Forum,” said Ted Piccone, Head of Engagement for the World Justice Project in Washington, DC. The forums final statement calls for protecting whistleblowers’ access to remedies.

The Declaration goes beyond applicable international standards and all national whistleblower laws by qualifying whistleblowing – generally defined as reporting misconduct in the workplace – as a human right. . In four decisions since 2008, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that whistleblowing in certain circumstances is protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Declaration goes further than these judgments.

“The concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of the press were developed to protect whistleblowers,” noted a Forum participant. “Whistleblowers should be treated as human rights defenders,” added another.

“We need a culture that supports whistleblowing,” said one participant among many who said negative public perceptions of whistleblowers have harmful effects and need to be reversed.

In one of the most important contributions, a participant said: “There should be an independent international whistleblower office with the power to deal effectively with cases of whistleblowers who are politicized at the national level”.

‘Automatic and immediate protection’

The main purpose of the Declaration is to correct one of the most significant problems with current whistleblower protection systems. In nearly every country with a whistleblower law, victim witnesses must apply to a public body for “whistleblower status” or file a lawsuit in the hope of being reinstated and compensated. Thus, their new “rights” are strongly conditioned by their capacity to prevail in an often endless legal procedure which generally requires professional legal assistance.

Often, whistleblowers must undergo procedures as long and costly as those of the alleged criminals they have denounced.

To free employees from these burdens, the Declaration calls on countries “to enact laws that provide automatic and immediate protection and compensation to employees who report misconduct. These laws will not require a person to seek protection or whistleblower status. Individuals are automatically protected under their rights to free speech and freedom of expression. »

The statement continues: “Any adverse action taken against an employee will automatically and immediately be reversed and revoked. Victims of reprisals will be automatically reinstated and compensated for all damages, material and otherwise.

The Statement on whistleblower rights will be distributed worldwide to gain support from elected officials, anti-corruption activists, legal professionals and others.

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