Whistleblowers and freedom to impart and to receive information

European Court of Human Rights

In this factsheet, the Council of Europe discusses the judgement of Halet v Luxembourg, where "the European Court of Human rights reiterated that the protection enjoyed by whistle-blowers under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights was based on the need to take account of features that were specific to the existence of a work-based relationship: on the one hand, the duty of loyalty, reserve and discretion inherent in the subordinate relationship entailed by it, and, where appropriate, the obligation to comply with a statutory duty of secrecy; on the other hand, the position of economic vulnerability vis-à-vis the person, public institution or enterprise on which they depended for employment and the risk of suffering retaliation from them. The Court also pointed out that, to date, the concept of “whistle-blower” had not been given an unequivocal legal definition and that it had always refrained from providing an abstract and general definition. Thus, the question of whether an individual who claimed to be a whistle-blower benefited from the protection offered by Article 10 of the Convention called for an assessment which took account of the circumstances of each case and the context in which it occurred. In this connection, the Court decided to apply the review criteria defined by it in the Guja v. Moldova judgment delivered by the Grand Chamber on 12 February 2008 in order to assess whether and, if so, to what extent, an individual who discloses confidential information obtained in the context of an employment relationship could rely on the protection of Article 10 of the Convention. In addition, conscious of the developments which had occurred since the Guja judgment was adopted in 2008, whether in terms of the place now occupied by whistle-blowers in democratic societies and the leading role they are liable to play, the Court considered it appropriate to confirm and consolidate the principles established in its case-law with regard to the protection of whistleblowers, by refining the criteria for their implementation in the light of the current European and international context."



Council of Europe. "Whistleblowers and freedom to impart and to receive information". 2023. https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/FS_Whistleblowers_ENG.pdf