International organisations: Slovakia moves to adopt a law that will protect corruption, not whistleblowers!
International civil society organisations are calling on members of the Slovak Parliament to reject proposed changes to the Whistleblower Protection Act. If adopted, they will significantly hinder the detection of corruption crimes and restrict the rights of whistleblowers. The Slovak Stop the Corruption Foundation and Transparency International Slovakia have also joined the call.
The Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) has addressed a letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Peter Pellegrini, and all MPs on Monday, urging them not to approve the government's amendments to the law. They are concerned that police officers will no longer receive protection, that the overall protection will be weakened, and that the proposed changes may also contradict an EU Directive. WIN is an international network that brings together whistleblowing, human rights, and anti-corruption organisations in over 25 countries worldwide.
"The EU Whistleblowing Directive was a ground-breaking tool in the fight against corruption, and the Slovak government's attack on whistleblower protection is an unlawful defence of corruption," WIN Trustee and Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, Tom Devine stated. The point of the Directive, Devine said, was to protect the rule of law, which is impossible if the police do not have the right to uncover the truth wherever the evidence leads.
"What is most outrageous, if passed, Slovakia will be the world's only nation where whistleblowing does not trigger protection unless the government agrees that exposing its own corruption is a 'necessity.' The proposed legislation would turn a law that shields whistleblowers into one that shields corruption," stated Devine, a legal expert who has assisted in the development of whistleblower protection legislation in 14 countries.
According to WIN and experts in the field, exempting police officers from protection is not supported by the EU Whistleblowing Directive. The government's proposal also eliminates the minimum level of whistleblower protection. Slovakia has committed to this by introducing a condition of so-called "necessity." This means that a report must be necessary for the clarification of criminal activity, which is not possible to assess at the beginning (before the start of an investigation). Similarly, the provision on "apparent" abuse of reporting is too subjective and opens the way for an arbitrary withdrawal of protection. Furthermore, the way Slovakia is adopting this legislation - hastily and without discussion - is
also contrary to EU rules and could have serious consequences in terms of limiting Slovakia's financial support, WIN warns.
Along with 24 other organisations from around the world, Slovak organisations are also supporting the statement.
"The current conditions regarding whistleblower protection, including the establishment of a competent office, were started by the previous government of Robert Fico and approved by the cabinet of Peter Pellegrini. Since the current cases do not suit them politically, they are now circumventing their own rules and offices and, without proper discussion, are seeking to change the legislation, even retroactively. Although the law could be improved, such an approach does not speak of a responsible effort to take the public interest into account," says Michal Piško, Director of Transparency International Slovakia.
According to the Stop the Corruption Foundation, the proposed regulation is a major setback in the fight against corruption. "In terms of whistleblower protection, Slovakia has been a European tiger, but if the proposed changes are passed, coupled with lower penalties for corruption and the abolition of the Special Prosecutor's Office, we may as well declare ourselves a paradise for organised crime," said Zuzana Petková, the Foundation's Director.
For an in-depth analysis of the issues at stake, see this Memorandum prepared by the European Whistleblowing Institute and the Government Accountability Project.
WIN's Letter to the Slovak Parliament is available to read in English and Slovak.