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IRIS 2010-5:Extra

Parliamentary Assembly

Recommendation and Resolution on the Protection of “Whistle-Blowers”

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Emre Yildirim

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 29 April 2010 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Resolution 1729(2010) and Recommendation 1916(2010) both of which are entitled “Protection of ‘whistle-blowers’”.

The Resolution first of all recognises the importance of whistle-blowers. Their ability to stop wrongdoings and provide an opportunity for accountability and to bolster the fight against corruption and mismanagement is an asset in both the public and private sectors. Unfortunately, whistle-blowers are often discouraged by, inter alia, fear of reprisals.

The Assembly notes that most of the Member States of the Council of Europe do not provide comprehensive laws for the protection of whistle-blowers, though many do have rules covering certain aspects of whistle-blowing. The Resolution refers to the United Kingdom and the United States of America as examples of countries where legislation has been enacted with widely satisfactory results.

Adequate legislation is required to give whistle-blowers the security they need to give warning of malpractice without risking their livelihoods and those of their families. Relevant legislation should include a safe alternative to silence and the avoidance of practices which entrap potential whistle-blowers with a false sense of security. The Assembly therefore invites all Member States to review their legislation concerning the protection of whistle-blowers, while keeping several guiding principles in mind.

Whistle-blowing legislation should first of all be comprehensive, with a wide definition given to protected disclosures. It should also cover a wide area of law and both the public and private sectors. Furthermore, it should focus on providing a safe alternative to silence. This can, inter alia, be achieved by giving appropriate incentives to government and corporate decision-makers to set in place internal whistle-blowing procedures with procedural safeguards.

The Assembly furthermore stresses that the cultural attitude towards whistle-blowing must be freed from its previous association with disloyalty or betrayal. Non-governmental organisations can greatly contribute to this change according to the Assembly. Finally the Assembly invites the Council of Europe, in order to set a good example, to put in place a strong internal whistle-blowing procedure.

In a subsequent Recommendation on the matter, the Assembly stresses the importance of whistle-blowing as a tool to increase accountability and strengthen the fight against corruption and mismanagement. It recommends that the Committee of Ministers draw up a set of guidelines for the protection of whistle-blowers, with respect to the guiding principles outlined above, and to consider drafting a framework convention. It further recommends that the Committee of Ministers invite Member States to examine their existing legislation for conformity with those guidelines.

References
Resolution 1729 (2010) of the Parliamentary Assembly on the Protection of whistle-blowers, adopted on 29 April 2010 EN
 http://merlin.obs.coe.int/redirect.php?id=13061
 
Recommendation 1916 (2010) of the Parliamentary Assembly on the Protection of whistle-blowers, adopted on 29 April 2010 EN
 http://merlin.obs.coe.int/redirect.php?id=13062