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LuxLeaks trial: UN human rights expert deplores conviction of tax whistleblowers

GENEVA (30 June 2016) – United Nations human rights expert Alfred de Zayas today deplored the conviction of two whistleblowers in the so-called LuxLeaks scandal,  who revealed how tax avoidance and tax evasion occurred in Luxembourg banks. “Whistleblowers are heroes of our time and serve society and human rights,” he said.

“We seem to live in an upside-down world in which whistleblowers are convicted and those who loot society are not,” the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order stressed.

“Governments are systematically being deprived of essential tax revenues,” Mr. de Zayas warned. “As long as there are widespread tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax havens, States will not have the financial capacity to meet their human rights treaty obligations.”

On Thursday 29 June, two former PricewaterhouseCoopers employees received 12 and nine-month suspended sentences respectively for leaking documents revealing how Luxembourg granted lucrative tax breaks that saved firms including Apple, Ikea and Pepsi billions of dollars in taxes. The journalist who reported on the leaks was acquitted.

“Parliaments should adopt robust legislation not only to protect whistleblowers but also to reward them for contributing to ethics and integrity, especially in a sector where professional secrecy is at a peak” the expert said highlighting how the LuxLeaks trial decision may discourage individuals from reporting abuses.

“Secrecy is an enemy of democracy and the rule of law, since it facilitates not only tax evasion but also money-laundering and corruption. There is an urgent need for change,” Mr. de Zayas underscored. “Tax havens and other schemes used by individuals and mega-corporations to hide profits should be outlawed.”

The human rights experts added that “time is ripe for companies to bring tax into their human rights due diligence. Illicit financial flows, including through tax evasion, should be prosecuted.”

In his upcoming report to the UN General Assembly to be presented in October 2016 the Independent Expert will address the adverse human rights impact of tax havens and tax evasion.

ENDS

Mr. Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Learn more, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 9674 / tguillet@ohchr.org) or write to ie-internationalorder@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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