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The University of Alicante leads a European project aimed at establishing the procedures in professional qualification for translators and interpreters involved in criminal proceedings


Qualitas1   Qualitas2


Alicante, 29th January 2013

The University of Alicante leads "Qualitas: Ensuring the Quality of Legal Interpretation through Testing and Certification", an ambitious research project funded by the Department of Justice of the European Commission which aims at providing a roadmap for the development of valid and reliable certification procedures for interpreters working in judicial and police venues which would be provided to all 27 EU member states.

The coordinator of this project is a professor in the Department of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Alicante, Cynthia Giambruno.  Her colleague, Juan Miguel Ortega, is also a member of the work team. The project involves 14 experts from 7 countries in the European Union and will run for two years.

Increased internationalization in European judicial systems has revealed certain deficiencies in one of the fundamental requirements that ensure due process -- the use of qualified interpreters who have been properly evaluated and certified. In Spain, for example, current legislation governing the provision of translation and interpretation services in criminal proceedings allows the judge to appoint anyone who “has knowledge of the language” as an interpreter in court proceedings.

Given this deficiency, which exists to some extent in several other countries, the European Commission in Directive 2010/64/EU on interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, stipulates that Members States must take “concrete measures” to ensure that the quality of interpreting is sufficient to ensure that justice is done.  The transposition of this Directive must be complete by October 2013.

The Qualitas Project aims to provide authorities, agencies and organizations throughout the EU Member States who are responsible for organizing interpreting services for the courts and police with information t on the specific steps to take to develop valid and reliable certification instruments for all languages required in their respective judicial systems. Test prototypes, templates and reasoned performance criteria will be developed as well. Indications for use in specific situations that can be adapted to the reality of each country will also be provided.

According to Giambruno, "we want to provide the tools legal practitioners (judges, magistrates, lawyers, police, etc.) need to ensure full due process rights to all individuals, thereby reducing the number of cases in which legal proceedings are interrupted or delayed due to faulty interpretation. Most importantly, improving the quality of interpreting services will help to ensure that justice is done. The current mechanisms for evaluating and certifying interpreter competence in many, if not most, of the EU Member States are inadequate or nonexistent. "

"Certainly we must first start by raising awareness among jurists," said Juan Miguel Ortega. A judge should not allow certain situations to occur and a lawyer cannot be expected to defend the interests of a foreign person without the proper means of effective communication.  "For example, there are many cases in which interpreting is only provided when the defendant is being questioned directly. During the remainder of the trial, a non-Spanish speaking defendant may not have any way of knowing what is going on in the courtroom."

Court interpreters make it possible for effective communication to take place between parties to a legal procedure who do not share a common language.  They constitute the nexus of communication between individuals, lawyers, judges and police. "The task of the interpreters who work in the courts thus becomes a prerequisite of justice itself, since it is difficult to judge a case or defend a person in the absence of good communication with the accused, witnesses or victims," indicates Giambruno.

"In view of the above, we recommend the implementation of a new system, based on the successful efforts of other countries such as The Netherlands, Australia, the United States and the U.K. This system would lead to the standardization and regulation of this very important public service and the design of specific training programs and professional accreditation policies to ensure quality.  The final goal would be to achieve the legal certainty and mutual trust between EU countries that is expressed in the mission statement of the EU Directorate General for Justice,"adds Professor Giambruno.

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