In addition to the initiative by 14 EU Member States, which follows up on the Council Framework Decision on the right to interpretation and translation, accompanied by the Council Resolution on “Best Practices”, the Commission has now also prepared a draft text for a Directive on the right to interpretation and translation. It will now be the task of the European Parliament to merge the texts in such a way that an optimum result can be achieved, i.e. that a legal instrument can be adopted that will effectively promote the standards of legal interpreting and translation in EU Member States for the benefit of a fair trial and procedural safeguards for suspects or accused persons. Below is a short summary of the most important points from the perspective of legal interpreters and translators.
What are the main features of the draft directive based on an initiative by 14 EU Member States?
- The general structure is that of the Framework decision; the language used differs in several places.
- Recital 11 states “that Member States shall not be obliged to ensure interpretation of communication between the suspected or accused person and his/her counsel where they can effectively communicate in the same language. …”
- Paragraph 6 of Article 3 stipulates that “an oral translation or an oral summary ….. may, where appropriate, be provided instead of a written translation.”
- There is no reference to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Reflection Forum on Multilingualism and Interpreter Training (“soft law”).
What are the main features of the Commission proposal?
- The draft text of the Commission directive is basically identical with the text of the Framework decision.
- The main points of the Council Resolution on “Best Practices”, i.e. the recommendations contained in the Report of the Reflection Forum on Multilingualism and Interpreter Training, are listed in an Explanatory Memorandum.
In the meantime, the Member States Initiative for a directive has been further developed by the EU Parliament’s LIBE Committee and contains the following new features:
- Recital 11 no longer states “that Member States shall not be obliged to ensure interpretation of communication between the suspected or accused person and his/her counsel where they can effectively communicate in the same language. …”
- A new Recital 12 requires Member State “to ensure that training is offered for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police and relevant court personnel in order for them to be able to assess the suspect’s linguistic needs, ensure his ability to understand the proceedings, and assess the quality of interpretation and translation.”
- Paragraph 4 of Article 2 now states that “Member States shall ensure that there is a right of appeal to a judicial authority against a decision that there is no need for interpretation as well as a mechanism for complaints and an opportunity to secure a replacement interpreter.”
- A new paragraph 5 amends Article 2 and refers to the use of video links, telephone or internet connections if an interpreter cannot attend in person.
- A condition has been added to paragraph 6 of Article 3, i.e. that the suspect’s lawyer is present and a record is kept of any oral translation or summary.
- The training of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, etc. has now also been introduced in a new paragraph 1 of Article 5.
- Most importantly, a new Paragraph 1 b in Article 5 stipulates that “in order to guarantee a high standard of interpretation and translation and efficient access to it, Member States shall ensure that a system of training, qualification and accreditation of translators and interpreters for legal work is in place, and that a national register of independent professional translators and interpreters who are so qualified is established and available to lawyers and relevant authorities, including on a cross-border basis.”
- A new Article 5a calls for sufficient time to produce translations and to provide interpretation.
The legislative process continues on the EU level. EULITA is monitoring the evolution and, whenever and wherever appropriate, EULITA states its opinion – for the benefit of a fair trial for suspected or accused persons, conducted with the help of qualified and professional legal interpreters and legal translators. National associations in EU Member States are asked to support these efforts by contacting their national ministries of justice or MEPs.
Liese Katschinka, President,
on behalf of the Executive Committee
21 March 2010