Archive for October, 2010

EU courts must offer interpreting and translation during proceedings

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Thu, Oct 07 2010

EU courts must offer interpreting and translation during proceedings

The Council of the European Union has adopted rules that will make interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings compulsory, if these services are required.

An agreement has been reached with the European Parliament in first reading. Member states will now have to transpose the directive into national law. The directive is based on an initiative taken by 13 Member States (Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Finland and Sweden).

The new directive will substantially enhance the rights for suspected and accused persons. According to the communique, under the terms of the directive “they will have the right to interpretation, meaning that a suspected or accused person who does not understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings concerned will be provided without delay with interpretation during criminal proceedings before investigative and judicial authorities, including during police questioning, during all court hearings and during any necessary interim hearings”.

Where necessary for the purpose of ensuring the fairness of the proceedings,interpretation will also be available for communication between the suspected or accused person and his legal counsel in direct connection with any questioning or hearing during the proceedings or with the lodging of an appeal or other procedural applications, such as for bail.”

More information on the new directive is available here

Right to interpretation and translation
The EU is taking action to tackle the problem of varying standards and different levels of access to legal interpreting and translation available in criminal proceedings throughout its territory.

All EU countries are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – this is a requirement for joining the EU. The ECHR provides that anyone facing a criminal charge should be provided with the services of an interpreter, free of charge, if he/she doesn’t understand the language of the proceedings.

Safeguarding the right to a fair trial
The 2010 Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings pdf was adopted in oder to rectify this situation.

In line with the requirements of the ECHR, as interpreted in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), it requires EU countries to put in place the following mechanisms:

It should be provided, free of charge, where necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the fairness of the proceedings. This includes:

police interrogation,
essential meetings between client and lawyer, and
at trial.
Remote interpretation via videoconference, telephone, or Internet can be used if the physical presence of the interpreter is not required to safeguard fairness.

Translation of essential documents
Suspected or accused persons who do not understand the language of the proceedings must be provided with a written translation of documents that are essential for them to exercise their right of defence. This includes:

the detention order,
the indictment, and
the judgment.

Quality control
A quality sufficient to ensure that suspected or accused persons have knowledge of the case against them and are able to exercise their right of defence is required.

To ensure that qualified legal interpreters and translators are available, EU countries are called on to set up a register of qualified translators and interpreters, and to make it available to legal counsels and relevant authorities.

To ensure efficient and effective communication, relevant training of judges, prosecutors and judicial staff must be provided.

EU countries have until 27 October 2013 to implement the directive.

It was adopted following the 2009 Roadmap for strengthening procedural rights, which included a measure on translation and interpretation.