European Parliamentarians OK Whistleblower Resolution

3 July 2013

The Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a resolution (provisional text) urging support for whistleblowers and access to documents.

The resolution announced June 24 invites the Committee of Ministers to:

– examine ways and means to promote the entry into force and speedy implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (CETS No. 205) 

– review the Council of Europe’s own policies regarding access to information and classification and declassification of documents in light of the Assembly’s resolution ; and 

–  encourage member states of the Council of Europe to take into account the “Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information, in particular, concerning the points highlighted in this resolution, in modernising their legislation and practice. \

Also see a short interview (in Spanish) by the rapporteur, Spanish MP Diaz Tejera.

Whistleblower Provision Adopted

Among other things, the resolution includes a provision (para 8.7),  based on the recently announced Tshwane Principles 40, 43 and 46, which asserts that “A person, who discloses wrongdoings in the public interest (whistle-blower) should be protected from any type of retaliation, provided he or she acted in good faith and followed applicable procedures.” (See previous report on the Tshwane Principles.)

The report’s author, Tejera, according to the press release aid “the Wikileaks revelations did not seem to have caused any serious diplomatic repercussions or lasting damage: “One lesson learnt from this massive leak is in fact that the publication even of relatively sensitive information is nowhere near as damaging as had previously been assumed. I therefore consider the extreme severity with which the US authorities are treating Mr Manning, the young soldier who seems to be the ‘source’ of these leaks, as most inappropriate.”

In a blog post, Sandy Coliver of the Open Society Foundations, discussed the relevance of the Tshwane Principles to the Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning situation. The post summarizes the four criteria for whistleblower protections , stating that  the principles “recommend that the whistleblower should not be punished so long as the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in keeping the information secret.”

On another topic, the European parliamentarians, in Para. 8.5 of the resolution, reflecting Tshwane Principles 3 and 10, stated, “Access to information should be granted where public interest in the information in question outweighs the authorities’ interest in keeping it secret, including when such information “would make an important contribution to an on-going public debate.”

The resolution will be considered by the full PACE at its plenary meeting beginning Sept. 30.

The PACE is comprised of 636 members of the parliaments of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, with the largest countries – France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK – each having 18 members and 18 alternates, and the smallest countries having at least two members and two alternatives each.

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