Decalogue for the Protection of Informants and Whistleblowers
0. What is an Whistleblower? The Necessity of a legal definition that is clear and useful to society.
First of all, we should define what a Whistleblower is.
In our experience many people have tried to use XnetLeaks for denouncing corruption as a way to settle personal grudges and denounce neighbours and family members.
Protecting Whistleblowers is a fight to defend the collective work of transparency and whistleblowing, and not a way to create a society of informers, as authoritarian governments have often done.
Accordingly, we should watch out on how politicians, old and new, include this fashionable idea that can lend itself to demagoguery in their discourse or introduce it in their proposals. It can be transformed into a tool used to attack the opposition or a tool to create armies of fanatical informants at their beck and call.
That being said, at this moment those who sincerely make the decision to bring themselves to denounce cases of corruption and collusion of public powers with financial schemes find themselves in an unacceptable atmosphere of isolation and intimidation.
Relevant legislation exists in other countries, and drawing on this we will outline our proposal.
1. Protection of the Privacy and Anonymity of the Whistleblower
– Effectively protect the privacy and/or anonymity of informants or witnesses as well as, where applicable, that of family or people close to them, including, as the case may be:
– Allowing and facilitating anonymous reports from within institutions or businesses, as well as, in exceptional cases such as large corruption schemes, taking statements of whistleblowers via systems that hide their identities and accepting testimony through technologies that allow for this.
– Guaranteeing the right to private personal communications, investigating ex officio any interference.
– If requested, including the whistleblower and witnesses in the witness protection program and, insofar as is necessary and possible, relocation.
– Completely or partially prohibit, as appropriate, revealing information about their identities or whereabouts.
2. Protection of the Physical Integrity of the Whistleblower
– Incorporate in the legal framework appropriate measures to provide protection, when necessary, against unjust treatment, physical retaliation, or intimidation of whistleblowers, witnesses, or expert witnesses who present testimony.
3. Legal Defence
– Guarantee witnesses and whistleblowers the right to free legal assistance in legal processes that are a result of their condition as whistleblowers: allegations of intimidation, threats, injury, slander…
– Concrete measures to guard against bad legal practice used to slow down the process or increase expenses as a method to wear down the whistleblower psychologically and economically and to punish the whistleblower for their allegations.
4. Labour Rights
– Protect the right to not be fired during the legal process resulting from accusations, declaring the firing invalid in such cases. In the case of retaliation, stability of work should be facilitated and looked out for.
5. Psychological and Medical Attention
– Given the data that attest to the prevalence of stress-related health problems in whistleblowers, guarantee access to psychological and medical attention if the whistleblower considers it necessary.
6. Specific legislation
– The Spanish legal system does not seem to take an interest in cases of allegations of corruption. It is therefore necessary for current legislation to consider specific cases of whistleblowers in order to create a clear definition as noted in point 0 and define retaliation that may result from allegations as specific crimes.
– Impose an administrative guideline of best practices that takes the protection of witnesses and avoiding risk to them into account.
7. Secure Channels for Accusations
– The existence of trustworthy channels for denouncing corruption should be assured.
For this purpose, channels for bringing forward allegations that operate independently of the hierarchy and guarantee safety and anonymity should be established by all government agencies (or private institutions with a certain number of employees)
– Training and assistance will be offered to workers and civil servants who will give information and protection to whistleblowers, and guarantee that the rights of citizens who report irregularities will be respected.
– In particular, enforced methods of protection for civil servants whose work consists of reporting on the legality of public decisions which is in the public interest to protect.
8. Institutional Communication
– Use government institutions to push a campaign to normalise alerts from citizens, not penalize them. As explained in point 0, this does not lead to accusations among equals (which are already addressed in other parts of our legal code). There are already enough systems to control average citizens, what is needed is a solution to the deficiencies and inequality in the administration of justice between citizens and corporations or public offices.
9. Codes of Good Business Practice
– Issue contractually binding codes of good business practice from city councils, regional governments, and the central government. The codes would guide companies, both public and private (above a certain size) and the administration of the State, regional institutions, and municipal councils, including protection for those who make allegations of irregular conduct.
– Businesses with over a certain number of employees will be required to have an anonymous mailbox to receive allegations of abuses and misconduct, and government institutions will need to ensure their use.
10. Compliance with Established International Conventions
– In July 2006, the Spanish leadership ratifies the United Nations Convention against Corruption, also drafted and signed by the State of New York on October 10th, 2003.
– Guarantee immediately the measures against corruption and for protection of whistleblowers and witnesses that were achieved by signing this convention.
- How we fight corruption: User’s Manual for Citizens
- UN Convention against Corruption
Xnet – https://xnet-x.net
15MpaRato – https://15mparato.wordpress.com
David Fernández – @HiginiaRoig
Grup Contra la Corrupció a Catalunya – https://xnet-x.net/grupo-anticorrupcion-catalunya
Acción Cívica – http://accion-civica.org/
Audita Sanidad – http://auditasanidad.org/
Kontuz – http://www.kontuz.org/
Gestha – http://www.gestha.es/
Asufin – http://asufin.com