Nancy Schweda Nicholson, University of Delaware, USA
Located in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) follows in the footsteps of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials. Interpreting takes place not only in the courtrooms, but also in the field, as prosecution investigators search for witnesses and victims.
The official languages of the ICC are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. However, current trials (such as the Lubanga Dyilo case) require Swahili, Lingala, and Kingwana, to name only a few African languages. Linguistic challenges are ever-present.
A particular challenge at the ICC is the recruitment of local field “interpreters” who assist investigators on site. I have interviewed the Chief Interpreters for both the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) and the Registry’s Language Services Unit. They each face specific logistical challenges in locating, (sometimes) training and hiring interpreters, both in The Hague and in various African locations.
I traveled to the ICC in May of 2008 and observed in the courtroom on several occasions. What was quite extraordinary was that, during the days I was there, language and interpreter issues were discussed in open court. I felt very fortunate to have been a witness to these exchanges.
In sum, this presentation: (1) offers a basic overview of the ICC from the language services perspective; (2) includes information gathered from interviews with the Chief Interpreters; (3) highlights the linguistic challenges that have arisen in the Lubanga Dyilo trial; and (4) concludes with brief comments about my role as a faculty member in 4 training courses (held in The Hague and Montreal since 2004) that were developed to sensitize attorneys to the challenges of this unique legal environment.