A new report by Mary Lawlor, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, calls for increased whistleblower protections as a key human rights mechanism. The report recognizes whistleblowers as human rights defenders and recommends member states prioritize implementing stronger whistleblower protection laws.
The report, entitled “At the heart of the struggle: human rights defenders working against corruption,” will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council at its 49th session on February 28. The report “analyses the situation of human rights defenders working against corruption and stresses that protection frameworks applicable to human rights defenders should apply to them.”
In October 2021, the U.S.-based National Whistleblower Center (NWC) submitted a comment in response to the Special Rapporteur Lawlor’s call for submissions for the report. NWC identified whistleblower protection as a key form of support the United States provides for human rights defenders and made several recommendations regarding strengthening whistleblower protection laws.
The final report cites NWC’s submission and highlights the important role whistleblowers play in fighting corruption. The report notes that “whistleblowers are often in severe danger when they expose corruption. Some risk their career, their livelihoods and sometimes their personal safety to expose wrongdoing that threatens the public interest” and that “states should do more to enact meaningful protections for whistleblowers and encourage more people to publicly expose corruption.”
In conclusion, the report recommends that states “[p]rioritize the adoption and implementation of legislative and other measures to protect informants and whistleblowers, including comprehensive whistleblower protection laws in line with international human rights standards and best practices.”
The report specifies that best practices in whistleblower protection include “[p]rotecting whistleblowers against all forms of retaliation,” “[e]nsuring the confidentiality of the identity of whistleblowers,” and “[p]roviding personal protection measures to whistle-blowers whose lives or safety are in jeopardy.”
In response to the report, NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson stated “in light of NWC’s significant investment in developing whistleblower protections worldwide, particularly as it applies to the adoption of the EU Whistleblower Directive, the UN Report comes as a refreshing insight for the global community. It is incredibly affirming to have been included in the Special Rapporteur’s report and to see such a clear message from the UN that whistleblowers are human rights defenders, the key to anti-corruption worldwide. This has long been NWC’s message. We commend Mary Lawson and look forward to continuing to engage with the international human rights community.”