Serbia’s whistleblower law as a model

Passed with great anticipation in 2014, Serbia’s whistleblower law is among the most closely monitored in Europe. The Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers was enacted following a lengthy and inclusive process that featured input from many international experts and advocates. It is upheld as a model for EU candidate countries in Southeast Europe, and a symbol that Serbia itself is inching closer to EU membership.

On paper, the law is among the strongest in all of Europe. But making it work for people who were fired or harassed because they reported misconduct has proven to be tougher than expected.

There are many problems with how the law is being implemented – in particular, inconsistencies with how judges are interpreting it, according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS).

Despite being trained on the law, judges in Serbia are far from uniform in how they rule on unfair dismissal and other retaliation cases. Different judges presented with similar fact patterns have handed down entirely different rulings, CINS reported.

Moreover, victimized whistleblowers seeking relief may have to file separate lawsuits in three layers of courts. The sometimes overlapping roles of each court creates confusion and can greatly add to the time and expense of pursuing justice, CINS found.

In addition to CINS, Serbia’s law is closely tracked Pištaljka, a Belgrade-based NGO that receives, investigates and reports on whistleblower disclosures and retaliation complaints, and that provides legal support and representation to whistleblowers.