COALITION SUCCESSES

Albania: Coalition Helps Pass Whistleblower Law

The Institute for Democracy and Mediation, a Coalition member, successfully lobbied for the passage of Albania’s first whistleblower protection law. The law provides retaliation protection for government and company employees.

The Law on Whistleblowing and the Protection of Whistleblowers passed the Albanian Parliament unanimously on June 2, 2016. The Institute and the Coalition provided extensive comments on the draft law, improving it significantly and ensuring that many international and European standards are included in the legislation. Whistleblowers stand to benefit from these improvements.

The Center for the Study of Democracy and Governance, a Coalition member, has produced an in-depth training manual and citizens guide to educate the public about the new law. The Center’s director, Coalition Co-coordinator Arjan Dyrmishi, appeared on the first-ever national TV program on whistleblowing in July 2016.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Relief in Tuzla Kvarc Case

Following a one-year standoff that included suicide threats and an 18-day hunger strike, an agreement was reached with government officials on April 28, 2016 to allow Tuzla Kvarc to resume mining operations. The company was brought to its knees by an onslaught of sanctions, vandalism and other reprisals after an employee exposed a government mining scheme in 2015.

The campaign in support of Tuzla Kvarc and its father-and-son management team was led by the Center for Responsible Democracy, a founding Coalition member. Other milestones in the campaign include:

  • A Coalition action alert in 2016 led 13,000 people worldwide to write to Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic in support of Tuzla Kvarc.
  • Trumped-up criminal charges against Tuzla Kvarc and its director were dropped in December 2016.
  • The mining official who the company exposed was sentenced to 20 months in prison for corruption in February 2017.

In June 2017 Tuzla Kvarc deputy director Zlatan Velagić won a defamation lawsuit against a government-run TV station that falsely accused him of being affiliated with an Islamic terrorist organization.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Victimized WBer Reinstated

Danko Bogdanović, a whistleblower in Bosnia’s Indirect Taxation Authority, was reinstated on 4 June 2015 after the authority’s director was threatened with a monetary fine. Bosnia’s acclaimed whistleblower protection law imposes fines on government officials who refuse to reinstate whistleblowers or fail to stop retaliating against them.

Bogdanović had been fired in 2013 after revealing a large-scale bribery scheme that allowed companies to pay lower import and export taxes. He is back at work as chief of the Customs Office in Brčko.

Croatia: Government Promises First Whistleblower Law

Years of activism paid off in June 2017 when the Croatian government issued a pledge to pass the country’s first whistleblower law by the end of 2018. This is a potentially major breakthrough in country where legal rights for whistleblowers are among the weakest in the EU.

Whistleblower protection was added to the government’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2017-18. GONG, Center for Peace Studies and Human Rights House Zagreb – all Coalition members – have campaigned aggressively for the law and participated intimately in drafting the Action Plan.

Among the key activists in the campaign are GONG’s Duje Prkut, a member of the Ministry of Justice’s Council for Combating Corruption, and Human Rights House’s Ivan Novosel, a member of the Council for Civil Society Development.

The first official meeting on the new Action Plan was set to be held in November 2017.

Greece: Whistleblower Rights Finally on Political Radar

With support from the Coalition, the OECD has succeeded in placing whistleblower protection high on the anti-corruption agenda in Greece.

Coalition Co-coordinator Mark Worth spoke on the importance of whistleblower protection at Greece’s first-ever multi-stakeholder Public Integrity Forum, hosted by the OECD in Athens in July 2017.

As a follow-up, the OECD organized a series of roundtables with activists and experts in October to formally begin the process of developing new policies to promote and protect whistleblowing. The Coalition is supporting the OECD and Greek policy-makers in this initiative.

Citizens’ frustration with structural problems in combating corruption are fueling new efforts to achieve political accountability in a country still struggling to recover economically from the global finance crisis.

Kosovo: Tax-Evasion Whistleblower Still on the Job

A campaign by Coalition member FOL Movement has helped save the job of Murat Mehmeti, a public employee who in November 2016 exposed a massive tax evasion scheme within Kosovo’s Tax Administration.

The story was broken by Kosovo office of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), with which the Coalition cooperates.

The Coalition sent letters to Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and other government officials on behalf of Mehmeti, who FOL bestowed with the Award for Civic Courage in December 2016.

Kosovo: Improved Whistleblower Law on the Agenda

Coalition member FOL Movement has succeeded in convincing government officials to work to strengthen Kosovo’s whistleblower protection law, which is widely viewed as inadequate.

At a meeting organized by FOL in Priština on 7 November 2017, Assembly Member Albulena Haxhiu acknowledged that the ill-named Law on Protection of Informants contains “contradictions” and is in need of improvement. In agreement with Haxhiu at the meeting were Kosovo’s People’s Advocate (Ombudsman) and an official from the Anti-Corruption Agency. Also in attendance was whistleblower Murat Mehmeti, who exposed massive fraud within Kosovo’s Tax Administration in November 2016.

FOL is leading the initiative to expose the law’s weaknesses and push for it to be improved – or replaced with new legislation that meets current standards. Weaknesses in the 2011 law have permitted several whistleblowers to fired and even prosecuted after they exposed serious misconduct.

Macedonia: Strong Whistleblower Law Becomes Reality

Macedonia’s Assembly passed a whistleblower protection law in November 2015 that, if properly enforced, would be among the strongest such laws in Europe. Originally proposed by Coalition member Transparency International Macedonia, the law includes many international and European standards, including legal protections for public and private sector employees. (See: “Macedonia passes strong whistleblower protection law” under Dispatches.)

The enforcement of the law is being monitored the Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP, a Coalition member that receives, investigates and reports on whistleblower disclosures and complaints.

Moldova: Parliament Passes First WBer Protections

Moldova passed its first-ever provisions to protect whistleblowers in May 2017, backed by the efforts of three Coalition members: Anticorruption Alliance, Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption, and Resource Center for Human Rights (CReDO). The provisions are included in the Law on Integrity developed by Moldova’s National Anticorruption Center and its Deputy Director Cristina Țărnă, a former anti-corruption activist.

The law is the culmination of a UNDP project in which Coalition Co-coordinator Mark Worth twice visited Chișinău in 2016 for consultations and training with anti-corruption and other government officials.

Following up on this victory, a proposed “Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers” was released in October for consideration in Parliament. If passed, the law would be among the strongest in Europe. It includes many European and international standards, including:

  • protection for public and private sector employees
  • a designated public agency to investigate disclosures and complaints
  • the right to disclose directly to the public and the media
  • a wide range of remedies and relief
  • criminal penalties for retaliation
  • acceptance of anonymous reports

The campaign for whistleblower rights in Moldova is powerfully captured in the documentary “Whistleblowers on Their Own” and an expose on whistleblower cases produced by the Anticorruption Alliance and CReDO.

Montenegro: Whistleblower Framework Now in Place 

The Center for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations, a Coalition member, helped shape and advocate for a new Law on Prevention of Corruption that took effect in Montenegro on January 1, 2016. In particular, the Center helped strengthen legal protections for whistleblowers.

The law includes many best practices for protecting whistleblowers from retaliation and providing them with reporting channels, including:

  • the right to retaliation protection from the Agency for Prevention of Corruption
  • a wide range of offenses that may be reported
  • a requirement that all companies appoint a person to receive complaints and propose corrective measures
  • protections for people who assist or are connected with whistleblowers
  • awards of 3-5% for whistleblowers whose disclosures contribute to the generation of public funds
  • penalties ranging from €500 to €20,000 for failing to protect whistleblowers from retaliation

The Center and the Coalition are monitoring these new provisions and tracking whistleblower cases to help ensure the law is being properly enforced.

Serbia: Whistleblowers Victorious in Court Cases

It did not take long for Serbia’s Law on Protection of Whistleblowers to begin helping employees victimized for reporting misconduct. Within weeks after taking effect in summer 2015, elementary school secretary Miloš Krstić, car factory worker Vladimir Božić and police inspector Slobodan Marinković. Each of these employees were supported by Coalition associate member Pištaljka. (See: “Whistleblowers Redeemed” under Features.)

More recently, in May 2017, Novi Sad City employee Marija Beretka won her prolonged retaliation case before an Appeal Court – nearly two years to the day after she told police that city officials were concealing information about improperly parked vehicles. She was compensated €810 for “mental pain due to violations of honor and reputation.” A judge banned city officials from committing further reprisals against her.

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