Whistle-blower and witness protection in the fight against corruption
From 19 to 21 September 2016, representatives from 12 countries in West Africa gathered in Monrovia, Liberia, to discuss whistle-blower and witness protection in the fight against corruption. This regional meeting was organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in partnership with the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Network of National Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa (NACIWA).
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the LACC, Mr. James Verdier, stated "the sub-region is plagued by weak and non-existing legislation to protect whistle-blowers and witnesses, whereas credible testimonies are critical to investigate and prosecute public officials squandering national resources for personal benefit."
The representative from ECOWAS, Mr. Eyesan Okorodudu, drew attention to the "growing challenges and threats facing whistle-blowers and witnesses in the region" and highlighted the importance of dealing with a "culture of silence."
The Minister of Justice of Liberia, Clr. Frederick Cherue, expressed "cognisance of the danger corruption poses to the legitimacy of government" and lauded "the efforts by ECOWAS and leaders in the region to minimise corruption". Articles 32 and 33 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) encourage States Parties to adopt appropriate measures to protect whistle-blowers, witnesses, experts and victims. Such protection systems play indeed a fundamental role in enabling the detection and prosecution of corruption and related offences.
Although all countries in West Africa have adopted the UNCAC, almost all countries still need to adopt comprehensive whistle-blower and witness protection legislation. The regional workshop in Monrovia provided an opportunity to share national experiences and best practices, develop guiding principles for whistle-blower and witness protection, review the ECOWAS Strategy on Whistleblower protection and identify priority actions per country in the region for follow-up activities.
Representatives from national parliaments, anti-corruption bodies, ministries of justice, the national police and civil society organisations took part in the proceedings, interacting with international experts and technical experts from ECOWAS. Moreover, the opening ceremony was attended by the Minister of Justice and the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs from Liberia, as well as high-level representatives from the UN Mission in Liberia, among others.
Following three days of intensive discussions, practical case work, and expert presentations, the participants adopted the Monrovia Statement on Whistle-blower and Witness Protection in West Africa, and formulated a list of priority actions and recommendations per country, with a view to facilitating the establishment of effective whistle-blower and witness protection systems at the national level.
For further details, please read the Monrovia Statement and the list of national priorities and recommendations.
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The Sahel component of this activity was financed by Austria and the United States, in partnership with Australia and Russia