Published in 2024

Legal sources

Executive Summary

The Constitution of Benin guarantees the “right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, worship, opinion, and expression in accordance with the public order established by law and regulations”, and ensures “freedom and protection of the press”. However, in recent years, access to these fundamental freedoms has shown certain deficiencies.

The protections granted to whistleblowers are very limited and weak. Law No. 2011-20 of October 12, 2011, on the fight against corruption and the associated decree prohibit retaliation against anyone reporting corruption practices to national authorities, but these measures do not provide any effective means of communicating information, and disclosures to other entities are not protected.

In January 2015, the National Assembly adopted the Information and Communication Code, which defines the rights and freedoms of journalists. Although defamation is no longer punishable by imprisonment, heavy fines can be imposed. The enactment of the Digital Code in June 2017 constitutes a new hindrance to freedom of expression, prohibiting certain opposition media and encouraging censorship practices.

Laws and measures related to whistleblowers

  • Protection under laws and mechanisms related to the fight against corruption
  • Law on the Fight against Corruption and Related Offenses (2011)

The law on the fight against corruption and related offenses of 2011 provides whistleblowers, witnesses, experts, victims, and their relatives with “special protection”, albeit limited, against potential acts of retaliation or intimidation for disclosing information on corruption. The definition of a “whistleblower” is “any person who reports, in good faith, an alleged act of corruption”. This definition remains vague as it does not specify any viable means of communicating information, and disclosures to other entities are not protected.

This protection is defined in Decree No. 2013-122 of March 6, 2013, on the conditions for the special protection of whistleblowers, witnesses, experts, and victims, which specifies that no whistleblower, expert, or victim of a corruption-related crime can be harassed, reprimanded, or punished for disclosing or denouncing corruption (Article 4). Article 4 also reminds of the possibility to seek state protection in case of retaliation and/or harassment following collaboration with the National Authority for the Fight against corruption. 

The decree calls for the reintegration and/or compensation of employees sanctioned or dismissed for collaborating with national authorities in the fight against corruption. In case of threat or endangerment of a whistleblower, the Minister in charge of security or the Minister in charge of national defense must ensure the person’s security through police services or security forces (Article 5). Furthermore, financial compensation may be allocated to cover the expenses incurred by the whistleblower or witness in the context of “truth-telling” (Article 10).

Whistleblowers also have the right to register the police station as their domicile, and if their life is in danger, a judge may authorize the anonymous collection of the whistleblower’s statement. However, anonymity is “impossible” in cases where “knowledge of the person’s identity is essential to the rights of defense,” and the law specifies that “defamatory or false testimonies” can be prosecuted under other legislation. In addition, charges cannot be based on anonymous statements. Illegally revealing the identity of a whistleblower is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

  • Analysis and Processing Unit for Complaints and Reports (CPD)

In addition to this mechanism, the country established the Analysis and Processing Unit for Complaints and Reports (CPD) in January 2022. It is a citizen reporting desk for corruption incidents established following a Council of Ministers. The role of the CPD is to receive complaints against public officials and conduct investigations for prosecution.

  • Protections under Labor Law

Regarding the Labor Code, it does not include any provisions regarding whistleblowing, and although it is not listed as a reason for dismissal, dismissal for whistleblowing is not specifically identified as an unfair labor practice. Contracts can legitimately be terminated in cases of negligence or “objective and serious” reasons related to the employee’s health, unsuitability for the position, or professional inadequacy. Acts that may constitute negligent conduct and may result in serious professional misconduct include refusal to perform tasks within the scope of employment activities, professional misconduct, assault, intoxication, and breach of confidentiality (Article 56). However, the law does not provide information on reporting illegal acts.

No example of a practice constituting wrongful dismissal is given, but it is noted that damages determined by the competent court based on the harm suffered may be awarded when wrongful dismissal is proven (Article 52). According to the Labor Code, labor inspectors can investigate complaints and are required to keep information confidential.

Thus, Benin is one of the few countries in West Africa to have legislation protecting whistleblowers, witnesses, experts, and victims in accordance with its obligations resulting from the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Knowledge, support and action centers

Social Watch Benin is a network of NGOs and associations that promotes citizen control of public action at both the central and municipal levels in Benin. The activities of this network revolve around interventions related to the promotion of transparency, accountability, citizen control, advocacy, budget monitoring, and investments.

Contact: Blanche SONON, President 

Email Address: contact@socialwatch

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Legal Notice - Copyright 2024

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Copyright 2022