Since its foundation in 1997 the ECBA (European Criminal Bar Association) has
become the pre-eminent independent organisation of specialist defence lawyers
in all Council of Europe countries. The ECBA aims to promote the fundamental
rights of persons under investigation, suspects, accused and convicted persons,
not only in theory but also in the daily practice of criminal proceeding throughout
The ECBA consists of specialist defence lawyers from over 35 European countries
including 26 EU member states. Membership is open to all lawyers, whether
practicing or in academic life, who support those aims.
The association holds conferences twice a year, in spring and autumn, during
which members and non-members meet and discuss the latest developments in
European criminal law. The ECBA also acts as a platform for lawyers to meet with
lawyers from all member states and to exchange information and knowledge. Its
website aims to give access to relevant information, laws, treaties and
preparatory documents. At the members-section of the website lawyers can
simply ask questions, look for lawyers they need in member-state countries, take
part in committees preparing documents for several European projects, etc. The
ECBA participates in several current EU funded projects in the field of criminal
law and is member of the EU Justice Forum.
(Guidelines for a more effective communication with legal
interpreters and translators)
a joint project between EULITA (European Legal Interpreters and
Translators Association) and ECBA (European Criminal Bar
Association), presented at the ECBA Spring Conference in
Antwerp, Belgium, in April 2010.
magistrates, prosecutors, attorneys and legal
magistrates, prosecutors, attorneys and legal
The follllowiing poiints are based on practiicall experiience. It iis by no
The fo ow ng po nts are based on pract ca exper ence. It s by no
means a compllete lliistiing but a fiirst attempt to smoothen the
means a comp ete st ng but a f rst attempt to smoothen the
cooperatiion between magiistrates, prosecutors, attorneys and
cooperat on between mag strates, prosecutors, attorneys and
llegall iinterpreters. Comments and suggestiions are allways
ega nterpreters. Comments and suggest ons are a ways
1) Sellectiing the iinterpreter
1) Se ect ng the nterpreter
In order to guarantee excellllent llanguage skiilllls and appropriiate
In order to guarantee exce ent anguage sk s and appropr ate
iinterpretatiion accordiing to proper proffessiionall ethiics, iin priinciiplle onlly
nterpretat on accord ng to proper pro ess ona eth cs, n pr nc p e on y
llegall iinterpreters (sworn and court certiiffiied iinterpreters) are to be used.
ega nterpreters (sworn and court cert ed nterpreters) are to be used.
For llanguages ffor whiich there are no regiistered court iinterpreters iit woulld
For anguages or wh ch there are no reg stered court nterpreters t wou d
be beneffiiciiall iiff the jjudge or the prosecutor woulld veriiffy the qualliiffiicatiions
be bene c a the udge or the prosecutor wou d ver y the qua cat ons
and skiilllls off the iinterpreters beffore a heariing by means off a short
and sk s o the nterpreters be ore a hear ng by means o a short
conversatiion iin order to obtaiin assurance about the knowlledge and skiilllls
conversat on n order to obta n assurance about the know edge and sk s
off the iinterpreter iin the llanguage off the proceediings.
o the nterpreter n the anguage o the proceed ngs.
2) Informatiion on iinterpretiing
2) Informat on on nterpret ng
In complliicated and llong proceediings, as wellll as iin connectiion wiith
In comp cated and ong proceed ngs, as we as n connect on w th
vollumiinous ffiilles and diiffffiicullt cases, a briieff reviiew off the case by the
vo um nous es and d cu t cases, a br e rev ew o the case by the
iinterpreter beffore the triiall or a ffew days beffore the heariing iis to be
nterpreter be ore the tr a or a ew days be ore the hear ng s to be
recommended iin order to prepare effffectiivelly the speciiffiic termiinollogy off a
recommended n order to prepare e ect ve y the spec c term no ogy o a
case (such as iin the ffiielld off mediiciine, engiineeriing, or economiics).
case (such as n the e d o med c ne, eng neer ng, or econom cs).
3) Seatiing iin the courtroom
3) Seat ng n the courtroom
The court iinterpreter shoulld under allll ciircumstances have a pllace
The court nterpreter shou d under a c rcumstances have a p ace
assiigned iin the courtroom ffrom where he/she iis ablle to see and hear allll
ass gned n the courtroom rom where he/she s ab e to see and hear a
partiies, demonstratiing to the partiies that he/she iis partiiciipatiing iin the
part es, demonstrat ng to the part es that he/she s part c pat ng n the
heariing as a neutrall iinterpreter. Thiis allso applliies iiff the iinterpreter iis to
hear ng as a neutra nterpreter. Th s a so app es the nterpreter s to
transllate by way off whiisperiing.
trans ate by way o wh sper ng.
At allll tiimes the iinterpreters shoulld be proviided wiith a good viiew and good
At a t mes the nterpreters shou d be prov ded w th a good v ew and good
acoustiics, as wellll as the opportuniity to take notes on a solliid surfface (e.g.
acoust cs, as we as the opportun ty to take notes on a so d sur ace (e.g.
a tab e).
4) Short presentatiion of the actors iin the proceediings
4) Short presentat on of the actors n the proceed ngs
Siince court cases ffollllow a diifffferent procedure iin every country (and the
S nce court cases o ow a d erent procedure n every country (and the
average ciitiizen iis not ffamiilliiar wiith court procedures), a short presentatiion
average c t zen s not am ar w th court procedures), a short presentat on
off the actors (jjudge, prosecutor, court cllerk, court iinterpreter, llawyers,
o the actors ( udge, prosecutor, court c erk, court nterpreter, awyers,
etc.) wiillll take away the nervousness ffrom fforeiign deffendants and wiillll
etc.) w take away the nervousness rom ore gn de endants and w
ensure a smoother course off the proceediings.
ensure a smoother course o the proceed ngs.
In partiicullar, at thiis presentatiion iit shoulld be emphasiized that the court
In part cu ar, at th s presentat on t shou d be emphas zed that the court
iinterpreter iis a neutrall person and has the task off transllatiing allll questiions
nterpreter s a neutra person and has the task o trans at ng a quest ons
and statements consciientiiouslly and complletelly iinto the respectiivelly other
and statements consc ent ous y and comp ete y nto the respect ve y other
5) Wriitten texts presented at heariings
5) Wr tten texts presented at hear ngs
Iff wriitten texts (iindiictments, documents, contracts, correspondence, ffiilles,
I wr tten texts ( nd ctments, documents, contracts, correspondence, es,
etc.) are presented and read out at a heariing, these documents (oriigiinall
etc.) are presented and read out at a hear ng, these documents (or g na
or copy) shoulld be handed to the court iinterpreter so that he/she can
or copy) shou d be handed to the court nterpreter so that he/she can
s ght-trans ate them.
6) Interpretiing the heariing to the foreiign-llanguage partiies
6) Interpret ng the hear ng to the fore gn- anguage part es
In order to allllow fforeiign partiiciipants iin a heariing to ffollllow the
In order to a ow ore gn part c pants n a hear ng to o ow the
proceediings (ffor examplle, duriing the iinterrogatiion off wiitnesses), the
proceed ngs ( or examp e, dur ng the nterrogat on o w tnesses), the
court iinterpreter must be allllowed – e.g. by siittiing next to the partiies - to
court nterpreter must be a owed – e.g. by s tt ng next to the part es - to
iinterpret the statements off wiitness and/or the jjudge (prosecutor, llawyers)
nterpret the statements o w tness and/or the udge (prosecutor, awyers)
iin the whiisperiing iinterpretiing mode.
n the wh sper ng nterpret ng mode.
To ffaciilliitate thiis demandiing type off iinterpretatiion and to avoiid any
To ac tate th s demand ng type o nterpretat on and to avo d any
acoustiic diisturbance duriing the court heariing, caused by the whiispered
acoust c d sturbance dur ng the court hear ng, caused by the wh spered
iinterpretatiion, the use off a so-calllled “biidulle” iis recommended.
nterpretat on, the use o a so-ca ed “b du e” s recommended.
7) Interruptiing an iinterpretatiion
7) Interrupt ng an nterpretat on
The correct and ffullll iinterpretatiion off a statement on the basiis off notes
The correct and u nterpretat on o a statement on the bas s o notes
requiires maxiimum concentratiion. Any iinterventiions duriing the
requ res max mum concentrat on. Any ntervent ons dur ng the
iinterpretatiion by llawyers, jjudges, partiies, etc. iinterrupt the llogiicall course
nterpretat on by awyers, udges, part es, etc. nterrupt the og ca course
off the iinterpretatiion and shoulld thereffore onlly be made when the court
o the nterpretat on and shou d there ore on y be made when the court
iinterpreter has ffiiniished hiis/her iinterpretatiion.
nterpreter has n shed h s/her nterpretat on.
Siince iinterpretatiion requiires a hiigh degree off concentratiion, short breaks
S nce nterpretat on requ res a h gh degree o concentrat on, short breaks
shoulld be schedulled affter about one hour.
shou d be schedu ed a ter about one hour.
9) No transfer of judiiciiall tasks to the court iinterpreter
9) No transfer of jud c a tasks to the court nterpreter
Allthough court iinterpreters are aware that at the begiinniing off a heariing
A though court nterpreters are aware that at the beg nn ng o a hear ng
the partiies wiillll be asked ffor theiir iidentiity, and that wiitnesses wiillll be
the part es w be asked or the r dent ty, and that w tnesses w be
remiinded off theiir duty to speak the truth, as wellll as that conviicted
rem nded o the r duty to speak the truth, as we as that conv cted
persons wiillll be iinfformed off the llegall remediies at theiir diisposall, iit iis the
persons w be n ormed o the ega remed es at the r d sposa , t s the
jjudge’’s task to deall wiith these fformalliitiies, askiing the iinterpreters onlly to
udge s task to dea w th these orma t es, ask ng the nterpreters on y to
communiicate thiis iinfformatiion to the accused/conviicted person.
commun cate th s n ormat on to the accused/conv cted person.
10) Cullturall competence of llegall iinterpreters
10) Cu tura competence of ega nterpreters
Iff iin the course off a heariing the jjudge or prosecutor woulld lliike to obtaiin
I n the course o a hear ng the udge or prosecutor wou d ke to obta n
iinfformatiion on speciiffiic customs off an ethniic group ffrom the llegall
n ormat on on spec c customs o an ethn c group rom the ega
iinterpreter (e.g. whether a nod means “yes” or “no”), or when the llegall
nterpreter (e.g. whether a nod means “yes” or “no”), or when the ega
iinterpreter ffiinds iit necessary to iinfform the jjudge or prosecutor off any
nterpreter nds t necessary to n orm the udge or prosecutor o any
such speciiffiic characteriistiics, so that they better understand the behaviiour
such spec c character st cs, so that they better understand the behav our
off a fforeiign party at a heariing, thiis shoulld be done outsiide off the
o a ore gn party at a hear ng, th s shou d be done outs de o the
proceediings, e.g. duriing a short break requested by the llegall iinterpreter.
proceed ngs, e.g. dur ng a short break requested by the ega nterpreter.