Call for protection of whistleblowers in national security-related fields

Disclosures of information related to national security are generally excluded from protection available to whistleblowers. In view of the disclosures concerning mass surveillance and intrusions of privacy carried out by intelligence agencies, which affect the communications of numerous persons who are not suspected of any wrongdoing, Council of Europe member states and the EU should enact whistleblower protection laws also covering employees of national security or intelligence services and of private firms working in this field, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights concluded today at a meeting in Paris.

Adopting a draft resolution on the basis of a report by Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) on the protection of whistleblowers, the Committee also stressed the need to grant asylum, if possible under national law, to whistleblowers threatened by retaliation in their home countries provided their disclosures qualify for protection under the principles advocated by the Assembly.

The Committee also agreed that with a view to further improve the protection of whistleblowers, the Council of Europe should prepare a binding legal instrument in the form of a framework convention that would also be open to non-member states.

Finally the Committee urged the United States of America to allow Edward Snowden to return without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defence.

The report by Mr Omtzigt will be discussed at the PACE summer session (Strasbourg, 22-26 June 2015).