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.

Continue reading

Irish government should scrap trade secrets amendment that could criminalise whistleblowing

 

‘Ireland had the strongest whistleblower law in the EU and had inspired reform with its legislation around the world. It looks like the government has broken something that didn’t need to be fixed. Irish whistleblowers, business and the Irish public will be the real losers here.’

Anna Myers
Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)

04/07/2018 WIN Director Anna Myers has joined several expert organisations, legal advisors and practitioners in signing a letter from Transparency International Ireland urging the Irish Government to amend the EU Protection of Trade Secrets Regulation (SI 188) on the basis of its creation of a new test for whistleblowers. Unlike the existing Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (PDA), SI 188 requires whistleblowers to demonstrate that their disclosure was motivated by a general public interest concern even if the disclosure is later deemed to be true, related to a criminal offence, or they reported it to their employer or the appropriate authorities.

Whilst the EU Trade Secrets Directive (passed in July 2016) is supposed to provide strong safeguards for intellectual property holders, there is no requirement in the Directive for any EU Member State to create an additional test for whistleblowers. Under the terms of the Irish proposals, whistleblowers reporting offences to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement or to law enforcement will not only be required to show they believed a crime was or about to be committed but will also have to prove they were motivated to protect the general public interest in reporting the crime.

Continue reading