UN: Nations should protect whistleblowers not prosecute them

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.

A new report released by David Kaye the United Nations (UN) Special Rappoteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has urged nations to protect whistleblowers calling them and the release of confidential information an important part of a healthy democracy.

“Countless sources and whistleblowers around the world are intimidated by officials, co-workers, and others, depriving everyone of information that may be critical to public debate and accountability,” said Kaye.

Edward Snowden, the whitsleblower who revealed the NSA bulk data-collection and spying program has had to seek refuge in Russia.

The NSA program drew domestic and international outrage when it was revealed in 2013 and has since been ruled as illegal by at least one U.S. court.

In another case, the only member of the CIA who was put in jail for the torture program which violated international law, was the whistleblower who brought it to international attention, John Kiriakou.

Both of these programs were enacted under the banner of keeping us safe, that spying on the innocent and becoming a nation that tortures was in our best interest.

Without the whistleblowers who revealed these programs, we would never have had the important discussion as to whether the ends justified the means. Whether protecting our “national interests” was worth sacrificing the principals we cherish as Americans.

However, instead of protecting whistleblowers we have prosecuted and hunted Kiriakou and Snowden and many others.

“All too often, those revealing allegations of wrongdoing lack effective protection,” Kaye said. “Silence is too often the only safe option left to them, with the public left in the dark and wrongdoing left unpunished.”

Most importantly, in his report Kaye stated that when a whistleblower brings to light violations of civil liberties or human rights, as Snowden and Kiriakou have done, that no prosecution by the state can be justified.

“States may restrict access to information in specific areas and narrow circumstances, yet the disclosure of information relating to human rights or humanitarian law violations should never be the basis of penalties of any kind,” Mr. Kaye underscored.

 

[The Intercept] [The United Nations] [Photo Courtesy of the United Nations]