As the last country in Europe to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption, Germany’s performance in fighting corruption is matched by its poor record in protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.
Germany’s legal rights and protections for whistleblowers are among the weakest in all of Europe. Several whistleblowers have been fired in recent years for reporting misconduct and dangerous practices. The ruling Christian Democratic Party repeatedly has blocked proposed whistleblower laws and has denied public access to records of a government study on the issue.
Seeking reforms, Change of Direction activists are supporting efforts by most of Germany’s main political parties, including the Social Democrats, Greens, Left and the Pirate Party. Activists met with Green Parliament member Hans-Christian Ströbele, one of the first high-ranking government officials from any country to meet publicly with Edward Snowden after he arrived in Russia in 2013.
Germany’s best-known retaliation case is that of Brigitte Heinisch, a caregiver who was fired in 2005 after exposing dirty conditions in a Berlin nursing home. Denied compensation by several German courts, Heinisch won a high-profile case at the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 and received €90,000 in compensation.
In 2014 Berlin paramedic Sascha Lex was fired after reporting unhygienic conditions and poor maintenance of ambulances, which he said led to the death of a premature baby. Lex sought justice in German courts, but the case has been shrouded by a media blackout. There have been documented cases of self-censorship in the German mainstream media, and the ambulance company has threatened to sue Lex if he speaks publicly about his case.