Partnering globally to support whistleblowing

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WIN Director Anna Myers gives opening plenary talk at International Whistleblowing  Conference, Amsterdam, June 2014

WIN Director Anna Myers gives opening plenary talk at International Whistleblowing Conference, Amsterdam, June 2014

WIN connects and strengthens civil society organizations that defend and support whistleblowers. The Network provides counsel, tools and expertise needed by those working in their countries to address corruption, waste, fraud, abuse, illegality and threats to the public interest.

International NGOs Call for Charges against Antoine Deltour to be Dropped

With the opening of Antoine Deltour’s trial today, WIN and several of the world’s leading whistleblower support and transparency advocates call on the charges against him to be dropped. Noting that his disclosures were manifestly in the public interest and recognized by the European Parliament, which awarded him the European Citizens Award in 2015, civil society is concerned that Deltour’s prosecution will “only embolden those engaged in fraud, corruption and other abuses of power.”

View the signed letter here deltour support.

*********************

Mr John Parkhouse, CEO
PricewaterhouseCoopers Luxembourg

Cc: Mr Dennis M. Nally, Chairman
PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd.

By email                                                                                                    25 April 2016

Re: Mr Antoine Deltour

Dear Mr Parkhouse,

We write to urge PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Luxembourg to withdraw its criminal complaint and any civil legal action against its former employee Antoine Deltour whose trial begins tomorrow (26 April 2016).  As a global network of organizations and partners that protect whistleblowers in our respective countries, we believe that prosecuting Mr. Deltour as a criminal for alerting the public and the authorities to corporate conduct that is itself being investigated by the European authorities is contrary to the public interest.

We also call on you to work to ensure that other whistleblowers do not fear legal action for speaking up in the public interest. In such situations breaching commercial confidentiality may very well be the most ethical action to take.

Notwithstanding Luxembourg’s narrow legal definition of whistleblowing, Mr Deltour acted in the tradition of public interest whistleblowers. His disclosure is consistent with international principles and standards that inform a growing body of national whistleblowing statutes. There is no evidence to suggest that he acted untruthfully. His disclosures were manifestly in the public interest. He did not seek to profit from his disclosures. Nor did he have reason to believe that, had he used internal channels to make his disclosures, his concerns would occasion remedial action.  His prosecution because of your company’s criminal complaint suggests his assessment was accurate.

Mr Deltour’s actions have been recognised by the European Parliament which has awarded him the European Citizens Prize 2015; have supported European Commission investigations into unlawful Luxembourg tax rulings; and set in motion unprecedented intergovernmental dialogue on the need to promote greater fiscal and corporate transparency worldwide. Yet Mr Deltour now faces the possibility of up to ten years in jail and a potential €1.25 million fine.

The wider possible consequences of Mr Deltour’s prosecution for breach of corporate confidentiality cannot be overstated. The prosecution sends a disturbing message that commercial confidentiality trumps the public interest. It will have a chilling effect on other whistleblowers and witnesses of impropriety by making it clear that breaches of confidence will be met with the prospect of criminalization and imprisonment. The fear this engenders can only embolden those engaged in fraud, corruption and other abuses of power.

The prosecution is also at odds with European values and a growing international consensus on the need to protect whistleblowers and to ensure that confidentiality cannot be used to conceal wrongdoing.  The ’public interest principle’ has been well-established since the 1850s and continues to inform a growing body of legislation and case law in Europe and beyond.  Such a body of jurisprudence protecting witnesses, whistleblowers and a free press is now being challenged by the Luxembourg authorities and your company’s actions.

PwC has a long track record in publicly championing the fight against corruption and has consistently highlighted the role of whistleblowers in exposing fraud and other abuses. It is therefore surprising and equally disappointing that PwC Luxembourg has sought to pursue legal action against a whistleblower. Your company’s criminal complaint against Mr. Deltour could undermine its stature as a partner of global civil society and may serve to damage its international reputation as a champion for corporate integrity.

In light of all of the above, we urge you to withdraw your criminal complaint and any civil legal action against Mr Deltour and to work to ensure that public interest whistleblowing is not criminalized in this way.

Yours sincerely,

Cathy James, Chief Executive
Public Concern at Work (UK)

Vladimir Radomirović, Editor-in-chief
Pistaljka (Serbia)

John Devitt, Chief Executive
Transparency International Ireland

Paul Stephenson
Member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Corruption

Wendy Addison
SpeakUp Speak Out Ltd. (UK)

Anna Myers, Executive Director/CEO
Government Accountability Project (USA)

Lorraine Martin,
Open Democracy Advice Centre, South Africa

Annegret Falter, Chair
Whistleblower-Netzwerk (Germany

The signatories are participants of the Whistleblowing International Network – a global coalition founded by organizations with experience advising whistleblowers and protecting them through the courts, in the press and in national legislatures.

Promising Start for Serbian Whistleblowing Law

Serbiahotel

Illegally built hotel in Serbia that was a subject of Marinković’s disclosures.

By Vladimir Radomirović

Vladimir Radomirović, Editor-in-Chief of Pištaljka, reporting on what’s changed for whistleblowers six months after implementation of Serbia’s new law, observes that the input of civil society has had a positive impact.

When Slobodan Marinković, a police detective in Belgrade, blew the whistle on corrupt police officers and politicians three years ago, he thought the crooks would soon be brought to justice. Instead, it was Marinković who was placed under investigation after his superiors alleged that he himself was corrupt. The detective was barred from all new investigations, his colleagues were warned not to speak to him, and then he was slated for transfer to another precinct, where he would serve as junior detective.

A last-ditch effort by Marinković prevented the transfer. He then turned to Pištaljka (The Whistle), the organization that supports whistleblowers in Serbia. We investigated his claims of corruption, verified them and published an article detailing how tycoons used political connections to illegally construct huge office buildings and a hotel. Detective Marinković’s whistleblowing prevented several buildings from being completed, much to the  chagrin of his superiors. Following the article, we interviewed Detective Marinković about his ordeal. The interview made quite an impression on fellow police officers and the general public.

A few months later, at Pištaljka’s request, the  Serbian Justice Ministry included Detective Marinković in the working group that would draft the whistleblower protection law. He and another whistleblower, Judge Biljana Mraović, were key members of the group and their experiences proved indispensable in defining the law’s main provisions.

Last December, six months after the law was implementated , Detective Marinković became one of the first whistleblowers to actually use it. Although Detective Marinković’s position on the police force improved over the past couple of years, he was nevertheless put on a redundancy list together with crooked police officers he had fought against. (Officials did not give a reason for firing Detective Marinković.)

Since Detective Marinković’s last brush with retaliation three years ago, Pištaljka has grown to include lawyers, in addition to journalists, so we offered him – and several other police whistleblowers – pro bono assistance in filing for interim relief. We filed the request on December 30th, 2015, and the court asked for the government’s reply on December 31; it never came. Action was swift with the judge reinstating Detective Marinković  on January 6 — a remarkable feat considering it was the holiday season and most judges were on vacation.

Not all judges were as quick to react. In the case of Miloš Krstić, an elementary school secretary who was fired after he had reported a corrupt school principal, it took four months and an appeal to have interim relief issued. Krstić is now back at his old job. Krstić was the first whistleblower in Serbia to use the law and the court’s mishandling of his initial request can be attributed to growing pains.

As of early January, seven interim relief decisions protecting whistleblowers have been issued by Serbian courts, including a case in the private sector where the judge issued the decision only two days after the whistleblower requested it.

Much of this success hails from trainings for judges given last year by the Government Accountability Project‘s (GAP) Legal Director Tom Devine. All across Serbia , judges acknowledge the positive impact of  Devine’s training.. The training was also very useful for our lawyers – Pištaljka now uses journalistic and legal techniques to make court submissions as clear and as convincing as possible, in effect making it easier for judges to issue favorable rulings.

As more whistleblowers turn to the courts for help, we expect judges to use these first cases as guidance in providing quick and effective protection for whistleblowers.  If  our societies want whistleblowers to come forward about corruption and abuse, we must ensure that they are always able to depend on such safeguards.

 

GAP and Pištaljka are both active members of WIN.

 

Whistleblower Protection has its Day at the United Nations

by: Alison Glick

Anna Myers, David Kaye, Aicha Elbasri & others addressing UN side panel on whistleblower and source protection

Anna Myers, David Kaye, Aicha Elbasri & others addressing UN side panel on whistleblower and source protection

The protection of whistleblowers and journalists’ sources took center stage at the United Nations on October 22nd, with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, delivering his report on the promotion and protection of these rights. Kaye, speaking before the UN’s Third Committee, which oversees social, humanitarian, and cultural affairs, emphasized the crucial role played by whistleblowers in protecting the public interest. “Freedom of information cannot exist only in specific documents…but must be real where it counts” — namely in legislatures, political institutions, independent judiciaries and among law enforcement officers.

Prior to his presentation, Kaye spoke at a press conference in which the first question asked focused on UN whistleblower Anders Kompass, a senior official in the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights who reported the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in the Central African Republic through diplomatic channels. While declining to comment on this or any specific case, Kaye noted that there is an issue with transparency at the UN when it comes to protecting whistleblowers and dealing with those who retaliate against them.

Article 19, the civil society organization that promotes freedom of expression and fights media censorship, organized a related side event before the Third Committee report. The panel featured WIN’s first director and current executive director of the Government Accountability Project, Anna Myers, UN whistleblower Aicha Elbasri, and representatives from other international organizations focused on free expression and protecting journalism sources. Myers brought together the various themes of the other panelists, noting the importance of whistleblowers to a free press and the inadequate legal protections that has led to the increasing criminalization of whistleblowing. In her comments, Elbasri noted the deeply dysfunctional UN system and processes that are meant to facilitate whistleblowing. Based on her experience as the former spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur who exposed the cover-up by mission officials of ongoing atrocities, she noted how the system of UN immunity leads to impunity for those responsible for wrongdoing. She called for external arbitration for whistleblower cases and the end to UN staff immunity for misdeeds. “The UN must lead by example,” she observed.

Elbasri and Myers were also featured in Vice News coverage of the report, commenting on the need for better internal whistleblowing systems to avoid the high price that whistleblowers often pay for making their disclosures. Complementing the Kaye report was a video produced by Human Rights Watch that highlighted the importance of the Special Rapporteur’s work by featuring whistleblowers Kathryn Bolkovac and Edward Snowden. Bolkovac, who blew the whistle on sex trafficking in Bosnia by police officers she was sent by the UN to train, talks about how she went to the press only after her internal disclosures produced no remedy. Snowden, the NSA surveillance whistleblower, noted that while whistleblowers need to become “comfortable with the idea of becoming a martyr,” depending on individuals to do so is not a long-term strategy for a society that wants public accountability.

Report by UN Special Rapprteaur Calls for Increased Whistleblower Protections

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

by Alison Glick

The new report by Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression at the United Nations, David Kaye, adds to the growing call for increased whistleblower protections as necessary to strengthen and ensure the right to information and free expression. In his report, Kaye analyzes not only international and national legal frameworks used to protect sources of information and whistleblowers, but also the practices of global and regional mechanisms that seek to offer protections. Significantly, the report also singles out the work of civil society organizations as vital in these areas. Continue reading

The EU Trade Directive: Money talks — and buys silence

MWoods Dec 2014Martin Woods discusses the implications of silencing corporate whistleblowers when doing so has such wide-ranging negative public impact.

We live in a world where money has become the ultimate goal – where millions worship at the altar of the dollar.  Far too often the value of money has taken primacy over the value of human life.  In my own professional life, I’ve seen a banker’s appetite for cash outweigh the casualties produced by money laundering. The drive for profit can even outrank the importance of food safety, and the need to increase market share and revenue leads to compromised research, as some drug companies trade health for wealth.  The obsession with balancing the books sees standards drop in care homes and hospitals, where all too often the welfare of the elderly and vulnerable is placed in the hands of low cost, untrained, people.  The examples worldwide are too numerous to relate and too depressing in their similarity.

The proposed EU Trade Directive[1] appears to codify this creed.  It has been proposed by the EU Commission[2] and is supported by Member States. Of course support also comes from the new cult leaders — the executives of big business who have a lot to gain and a lot to lose. The same executives who worship the underlying assumption that greed is a legitimate value and that whistleblowing must be punished, have lobbied for such laws that protect their creed.  Aided by their lawyers – who long ago sold their souls – these money mad, power men have sought to silence those who speak out against them.  Through the Trade Directive[3], the executives appear to have persuaded European politicians that employees who externally report corporate “information” – some of which could easily point to criminality – should themselves be guilty of a crime.  Just when the public needs more information than ever, to hold to account those responsible for corporate conduct in multinationals and banks, or for the activities of governments cooperating across borders, the EU Trade Directive appears to deliver the exact opposite. Continue reading

Statement on 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Malaysia

iaccmalaysia

Certain WIN affiliates and partners will be participating in next week’s International Anti-Corruption Conference in Malaysia. We do so to highlight the need for serious anti-corruption efforts globally, and to support our partners in Malaysia who are working under difficult circumstances to fight corruption in their country. We also support our partners’ decisions not to participate in the conference if they determine that is the best course of action for them.  We endorse statements made by TI Malaysia in the run-up to the conference about the ongoing corruption scandal involving Malaysia’s Prime Minister Rajib Razak. These statements call for independent and credible investigations into the allegations, guarantees of and respect for press freedom, and robust action against cross-border corruption. WIN was founded to address the need for cross-border cooperation to protect whistleblowers precisely because we recognized the transnational nature of the corruption they expose.

We look forward to sharing our ideas and hearing those of others on whistleblower protection and the role of investigative journalism in fighting fraud and abuse.

If you see something, say something – unless we don’t want you to

by Alison Glick

Australian detention facility on Papa New Guinea

Australian detention facility on Papa New Guinea

It shouldn’t be a crime to report a crime, but increasingly it is.

From the land Down Under to the U.S. hinterland, whistleblowers are being threatened with prosecution for exposing abuses in both the public and private sectors – a phenomenon that bodes ill for holding authorities accountable and for protecting basic rights to free speech and information.

The push to criminalize employees and interested citizens documenting and reporting abuses, illegality, and threats to public safety continues to gain momentum, as do efforts to resist the crackdown. It seems that the mantra “If you see something, say something” applies only in certain situations, and most assuredly not in ones that embarrass governments or narrow their corporate benefactors’ profit margins. Continue reading

Whistleblowing Protection in the Netherlands: Latest Developments

Netherlands_map
Rik van Steenbergen is Policy Advisor Labour Quality/Employment Law with the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV) which has actively supported public interest whistleblowing in the Netherlands for many years.

Introduction
The Dutch approach to regulation in practically all spheres of social life is a very pragmatic one: an issue is raised and debated, a consensus is sought, a policy is set out on a limited scale, and after evaluation it gets implemented more broadly.  Then it is evaluated and amended again.

Whistleblowing is an issue that has been taken very seriously in the Netherlands and much debated over the last 15 years. The Dutch term for whistleblower, introduced by professor Mark Bovens in 1987, is ‘klokkenluider’, meaning bell-ringer. Continue reading

Developments in Swiss Whistleblowing Law Demonstrate Impact of Civil Society

Swiss-parliament-in-Bern

The Swiss government was on track to pass whistleblowing legislation that could have harmed whistleblowers. Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi and Alison Glick explain how input from advocates, whistleblowers and civil society changed the course of that legislation. On May 15, Le News published this op/ed, which WIN republishes  with permission here http://bit.ly/1FdnzpW

International Whistleblowing Week Starts Today

The article below has been reproduced with permission from RootsAction.org.  Please see European events at the end of the Article.

Our Chance to Aid and Encourage Whistleblowers

We would know much less about what our governments do were it not for those who are part of our governments – until something becomes too horrible for their moral threshold – who see a means available to inform the public. What this fact says about the proportion of governmental activity that is shameful is worth considering.

Whistleblowers in general have the broad support of the public. Even their biggest enemies got into office by falsely promising to defend and honor them. But individual whistleblowers are often effectively demonized by the corporate media while being persecuted and prosecuted by the government they have assisted.

Continue reading