On Thursday, 11 October, the Saeima adopted the Whistleblower Protection Law.
The new law will enable whistleblowers to expose offences which concern public interests or interests of certain social groups. It will also help create and launch a whistleblowing framework, as well as provide appropriate protection to those who have disclosed a wrongdoing.
A whistleblower is a person who has acquired reliable information or evidence of an offence or a threat through work.
According to the Law, whistleblowers may disclose cases of corruption, fraud, professional neglect, negligence or abuse of power, tax evasion, misappropriation of public funds or embezzlement, breaches of public health, building safety, environmental, food safety or occupational safety regulations, public order risks, as well as human rights, public procurement, financial and capital market, competition and other specific violations. Reports containing falsified facts, confidential government information, or evidence pertaining to wrongdoings against natural persons shall not fall under the category of whistleblowing.
After disclosure of information, the identity of whistleblowers and their relatives will be protected under the new Law. The identity of the potential/suspected offender will also have to be concealed.
To protect whistleblowers from retaliation such as firing, demotion, or denied vacation rights, the new Law shall provide for free legal services and whistleblowers will not have to pay legal fees. Whistleblowers will have access to temporary civil and administrative protective orders. Whistleblowers will not be prosecuted and will not have to pay any remedies for physical or moral harm. Whistleblowers will also be offered advice on how to protect their rights.
Repercussions or retaliation against whistleblowers and their relatives will be subject to administrative penalties. Administrative penalties will also be applied in cases when a whistleblower has intentionally presented false evidence. The Law requires the Cabinet of Ministers to draft and submit to the parliament appropriate amendments to the Latvian Administrative Violations Code before 1 January 2019.
The Cabinet of Ministers is also tasked with producing and passing to the Saeima amendments to the Civil Procedure Law by 1 December 2019 to ensure efficient application of temporary protective orders in civil cases involving whistleblowers.
The Whistleblower Protection Law will come into effect on 1 May 2019.
Saeima Press Service