Calling for whistleblowing is not a crime: the case of the German peace activist

WIN is pleased to highlight the case of peace activist Hermann Theisen where the Court applied the provisions of the EU directive on trade secrets to acquit Mr. Theisen of criminal charges. Mr. Theisen’s case is an important contribution to the ongoing debates surrounding whistleblower protection in Germany. More broadly, though, this case is a landmark, setting the standard of how the trade secrets directive can be used as a conduit for whistleblower protection – a surprising and welcome turnaround for legislation that has a less than favourable reputation amongst many working to support and defend whistleblowers in the EU.

We are grateful to The Society for Civil Rights (GFF) for providing the summary of this case reproduced below.


In 2018, several lower courts in Germany convicted peace activist Hermann Theisen for calling on employees of weapons manufacturers to expose the illegal activities of their employers.

The Society for Civil Rights (GFF) supported Mr. Theisen in his appeal procedures to get these courts to recognise that neither whistleblowing in the public interest nor the call for it are criminal offences.

On 16 January 2019, the Munich District Court became the first court to acquit Mr. Theisen on these charges.

Hermann Theisen is not a whistleblower – but he wants to encourage others to blow the whistle. To fight illegal arms exports, he regularly hands out leaflets to the employees of weapons manufacturers close to their company premises. In these leaflets, he asks employees to consider blowing the whistle on illegal activities of their employers, such as violations of export restrictions. The leaflets also describe the legal risks that whistleblowers face.

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WIN Co-Founder calls on German government to ensure EU Directive “lives up to Europe’s promise of democracy”.

cropped-whistleblower-business-cards3-1311/01/2019 – In a press release yesterday,
WIN Member and co-founding organisation Whistleblower-Netzwerk called upon Germany, as a key member of the European Council to agree on minimum standards for whistleblower protection by February so that robust protection for whistleblowers can be adopted before the European elections in May 2019.

Outlining three minimum standards that would vastly improve legal protections for whistleblowers in the EU, Whistleblower-Netzwerk also challenged the German government to make their stance on whistleblower protection clear and asked whether Germany’s influence in the European Council would once again be used to obstruct progress on the issue.

WIN is committed to making whistleblowing work in Europe and is pleased to support organisations like Whistleblower-Netzwerk who are campaigning for democracy, transparency and accountability – qualities that are absent from the current focus in the European Council on employer security and the safeguarding of trade secrets.

The full statement is reproduced in English below, please visit Whistleblower-Netzwerk for more information, including a copy of the press release in German.

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