The protection of “whistle-blowers”
Reply to Recommendation
| Doc. 12479
| 24 January 2011
- Committee of Ministers
at the 1103rd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19-20 January
2011) 2011 - First part-session
- Reply to Recommendation
- : Recommendation 1916
The Committee of Ministers notes with
interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1916 (2010)
on “The protection of “whistle-blowers””. It has brought
it to the attention of their governments and has also communicated
it to the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), to the European
Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) and to the European Committee
on Crime Problems (CDPC), for information and possible comments.
Comments were also received from the Steering Committee on the Media
and New Communication Services (CDMC).
2. The Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly’s view that
whistle-blowers play an important role in increasing accountability
and strengthening the fight against corruption and mismanagement,
and it agrees that their protection must be secured. In this regard,
the Committee of Ministers recalls the existing international legal
framework that protects whistle-blowers from any form of retaliation,
which includes, inter alia,
the UN Convention Against Corruption, the 1992 ILO Convention No.
158 concerning Termination of Employment, the Council of Europe’s
Criminal Law and Civil Law Conventions on Corruption (ETS No. 173
and No. 174) and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human
Rights concerning freedom of expression and information.
3. The Programme of Action against Corruption adopted in 1996
by the Committee of Ministers recognised the importance of measures
to protect those who report in good faith suspicions of corruption
in order to facilitate the detection of this form of criminality
and to foster a culture of integrity within the public and the private
sector. This matter was taken up in the Civil Law Convention on
Corruption. The Committee of Ministers encourages those member states
which have not yet ratified the convention to consider this matter
with priority. It furthermore notes that in the context of GRECO’s
Second Evaluation Round, which dealt, inter
alia, with anti-corruption measures in public administration,
it appeared that more than half of the countries evaluated had not
yet introduced adequate protection mechanisms for public officials
who reported instances of suspected wrongdoing. Those in place in
the remaining countries were often limited to very basic measures.
GRECO thus addressed a number of recommendations for improvement
to individual countries and included in its Seventh General Activity
Report (2006) a special substantive part on whistle‑blower protection.
GRECO’s recommendations for improvement have often led to the adoption
of legal, institutional and practical measures of different kinds.
However, usually these have been limited to the area of the fight
against corruption and the protection of public employees.
4. Other texts of relevance in this context are the Declaration
of the Committee of Ministers on Council of Europe action to improve
the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities
(2008) and Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 of the Committee of Ministers
to member states on the legal status of non-governmental organisations
in Europe. Whistle blowing journalism related to human rights and
fundamental freedoms and situations where whistle blowers are the
victims of retaliation and reprisals from within or outside the
organisation in question is a matter that has been addressed in
several texts related to freedom of expression in the media, including
on the Internet, such as the Committee of Ministers 2007 Declaration
on the protection and promotion of investigative journalism, its
Recommendation Rec(2000)7 on the right of journalists not to disclose
their sources of information and its 2003 Declaration on freedom
of communication on the Internet. The Committee of Ministers would
stress, in particular, that the effective protection of journalistic
sources is an essential tool for the protection of whistle-blowers
and also for the protection of journalists themselves when acting
The Parliamentary Assembly recommends the elaboration of a
set of guidelines for the protection of whistle-blowers, taking
into account the guiding principles stipulated in Assembly Resolution 1729 (2010)
(paragraph 2.1). The Committee of Ministers notes that
the protection of whistle-blowers concerns many areas of law, including
criminal, civil and administrative law, data protection law and
human rights law. It also notes that there is no comprehensive
Council of Europe instrument covering this issue. Given the complexity
of the subject, the Committee of Ministers will examine carefully
the possibilities of elaborating such guidelines.
6. Concerning the Assembly’s proposal for an invitation to member
and observer states to examine national legislation and its implementation
to see whether they are in conformity with the guidelines (paragraph 2.2),
the Committee of Ministers will come back to this issue in due course.
7. The Parliamentary Assembly also proposes the drafting of a
framework convention (paragraph 2.3) in this field. The Committee
of Ministers may come back to this issue once it has taken a decision
on the possible elaboration of guidelines.
8. The Committee of Ministers invites the Secretary General to
make proposals for the organisation of a European conference on
whistle-blowers (Assembly recommendation, paragraph 3.1). It considers
that such a conference could provide a useful input to the reflection
on the possible elaboration of guidelines.
9. The Committee of Ministers finally invites the Secretary General
to examine the existing internal Council of Europe framework as
regards whistle-blowing and to report back (Assembly recommendation,