The Plenary Session of the Parliament voted with 49 votes in favor and one against, the legislation for the protection of whistleblowers, which report bad practices and acts of corruption.
Limassol MP Andreas Themistokleous voted against.
The Law entitled "The Law on the Protection of Persons Reporting Violations of Union and National Law of 2022", consolidated 4 draft laws, two bills that are European directives and two draft laws submitted by AKEL MP Irini Charalambidou, one of of which is co-signed by the Legal Committee of the Parliament. The relevant discussion started in 2016, when Ms. Charalambidou submitted the draft laws, while the Ministry of Justice recently consolidated the four pieces of legislation in one text.
The law provides, inter alia, for the protection of persons who report in relation to specific infringements of European Union law, acts or omissions related to the commission or possible commission of a criminal offense or non-compliance by a person with a legal obligation, infringements that may or may not endanger the safety or health of any person, infringements that cause or are likely to cause damage to the environment.
It also provides for the designation of persons entitled to protection who are persons who report breaches of European Union law, persons who report breaches of national law, third parties associated with such persons and who may be retaliated against in the workplace and legal persons which belong to the above persons or for which the above persons work or are related by employment.
The conditions for the protection of persons making a reference are also laid down.
Private and public sector legal entities are also required to establish channels and procedures for internal reporting of infringements and to establish reporting procedures through internal reporting channels.
There is also an obligation for the competent authorities to designate independent and autonomous external channels for receiving and managing infringement information, as well as an obligation to manage and process such information.
Protection is also provided to a person who publicly discloses infringements under certain conditions and an obligation of confidentiality regarding the identity of the petitioner is imposed, including any information from which his identity can be deduced directly or indirectly.
Measures are also enacted to protect the petitioner from any retaliation against him, as well as measures to support him, and the courts that will have jurisdiction to hear labor disputes and other disputes under private law that may arise due to the application of the provisions of the law are determined. The sanctions and compensations that may be imposed by the competent court are also being determined.
Finally, the criminal offenses of obstructing the submission of a petition, retaliation against a petitioner, initiating abusive proceedings against a petitioner, breach of the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the petitioner's identity and submitting false reports or false public disclosures are introduced.
The importance of the legislation was noted by MPs from all parties
In her speech before the Plenary Session, the Member of Parliament of the Movement of Ecologists-Citizens' Cooperation, Alexandra Attalidou, stated that the enactment of the legislation comes at a time when the country needs it more than ever. He added that the society of Cyprus is skeptical and is afraid if it denounces its corruption because it will have consequences. He congratulated Mrs. Charalambidou for her work and said that the passage of the bill is not enough, but its success will be seen by the number of corruption cases that will be reported and the protection that will be given to witnesses of public interest. He also noted the need to establish an Independent Anti-Corruption Authority.
EDEK MP Kostis Efstathiou congratulated Ms. Charalambidou for her stubbornness and persistence in promoting the legislation, which was missing, as she said from the legal arsenal for fighting corruption and which clarifies the difference between a witness and an informant. The issue, he added, is to enforce the laws being passed. He also said that we have a long way to go to implement such sensitive legislation.
DIKO MP Christiana Erotokritou in turn congratulated Mrs. Charalambidou stating that this is very important legislation, however in Cyprus the problem is not the absence of legislation, but the implementation of laws.
He added that the law being passed is modern and radical, but if it is not implemented as intended and as its philosophy dictates, in fact nothing will have been produced. He noted that all public and private law entities should be informed about their obligations and the procedures they need to implement.
The President of ELAM, Christos Christou, stated that they support the specific law, since when it is something right for the society, they support it without party blinders. He added that the issue of corruption has hurt the country deeply and expressed the belief that the institutions of justice will produce work after today's decisions.
AKEL MP Irini Charalambidou expressed her joy that a strong legal framework is finally being voted, which in many European countries is the spearhead for the fight against corruption, with the aim of enhancing transparency. He added that the consolidated legislation will protect citizens who have important information on corruption issues affecting the public. He added that in Cyprus those who provide the information are targeted and the fear of retaliation and consequences prevails. In a small state, he added, you can easily impose silence. He also estimated that even now it will take some time for the citizens to be discouraged and to understand that there is no room for retaliation in the public and private sectors.
He also noted that the draft law included particularly strict protection measures that prohibit dismissal, deprivation of promotion, ill-treatment, marginalization, non-renewal of contract, etc. Today, he said, Parliament demonstrates its willingness to fight corruption, while urging citizens to be informed about the provisions and the way the law is implemented.
He also praised the excellent cooperation with the Minister of Justice Stefi Drakou, stating that thanks to his own efforts the directive was consolidated with the draft law. He also thanked the Chairman of the Legal Committee, Nikos Tornaritis, for his catalytic intervention.
DISY MP Nikos Tornaritis spoke about a very important day for the Parliament, stating that "today we are transported from the big words to the works, from the timeless declarations to fight corruption in deeds".
He praised Ms.'s efforts. Charalambidou but also the direct, flexible and catalytic contribution of the Minister of Justice.
He also noted that this law is part of a triptych and another law that if passed will send the message both at home and abroad "that we change, that we reject what offends us, what reduces us, we put in the basket rotten apples are useless ". The second big step, he said, is the passing of the law for the Independent Authority against Corruption in a few days, while a third bill is the one for lobbying. The plus, he said, is the incompatibility between practicing the profession and being a member of parliament.
Explaining his vote, MP Andreas Themistokleous referred to a violation of the constitution in legislation to which Mr. Tornaritis referred. He added that he is voting against the law because he sees unprecedented hypocrisy and because he has nothing to offer.
The Minister of Justice, Stefi Drakou, was also present during the passing of the law.