Practice Relating to Rule 100. Fair Trial Guarantees

Geneva Convention III
Article 96, fourth paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention III provides: “The accused shall be … permitted … to have recourse, if necessary, to the services of a qualified interpreter.” 
Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 96, fourth para.
Geneva Convention III
Article 105, first paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention III provides: “The prisoner of war shall be entitled … if he deems necessary, to the services of a competent interpreter.” 
Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 105, first para.
Geneva Convention IV
Article 72, third paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides:
Accused persons shall, unless they freely waive such assistance, be aided by an interpreter, both during preliminary investigation and during the hearing in court. They shall have the right at any time to object to the interpreter and to ask for his replacement. 
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 72, third para.
Geneva Convention IV
Article 123, second paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “The accused internee shall be … permitted … to have recourse, if necessary, to the services of a qualified interpreter.” 
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 123, second para.
European Convention on Human Rights
Article 6(3)(e) of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights provides: “Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights … to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.” 
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Rome, 4 November 1950, as amended by Protocol No. 11, Strasbourg, 11 May 1994, Article 6(3)(e).
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 14(3)(f) of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides:
In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:
(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court. 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Res. 2200 A (XXI), 16 December 1966, Article 14(3)(f).
American Convention on Human Rights
Article 8(2)(a) of the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights establishes “the right of the accused to be assisted without charge by a translator or interpreter, if he does not understand or does not speak the language of the tribunal or court”. 
American Convention on Human Rights, adopted by the OAS Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human Rights, San José, 22 November 1969, also known as Pact of San José, Article 8(2)(a).
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 40(2)(b) of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child provides:
Every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law has at least the following guarantees:
(vi) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if the child cannot understand or speak the language used. 
Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Res. 44/25, 20 November 1989, Article 40(2)(b).
ICC Statute
Article 55(1)(c) of the 1998 ICC Statute provides that a person “shall, if questioned in a language other than a language the person fully understands and speaks, have, free of any cost, the assistance of a competent interpreter and such translations as are necessary to meet the requirements of fairness”. 
Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted by the UN Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, Rome, 17 July 1998, UN Doc. A/CONF.183/9, Article 55(1)(c).
ICC Statute
Article 67(1) of the 1998 ICC Statute provides:
In the determination of any charge, the accused shall be entitled … to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:
(f) To have, free of any cost, the assistance of a competent interpreter and such translations as are necessary to meet the requirements of fairness, if any of the proceedings of or documents presented to the Court are not in a language which the accused fully understands and speaks. 
Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted by the UN Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, Rome, 17 July 1998, UN Doc. A/CONF.183/9, Article 67(1)(f).
Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Article 17(4) of the 2002 Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone provides:
In the determination of any charge against the accused pursuant to the present Statute, he or she shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:
(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in the Special Court. 
Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, annexed to the 2002 Agreement on the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Freetown, 16 January 2002, annexed to Letter dated 6 March 2002 from the UN Secretary-General to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/2002/246, 8 March 2002, p. 29, Article 17(4)(f).
UN-Cambodia Agreement Concerning the Prosecution under Cambodian Law of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea
Article 12(2) of the 2003 UN-Cambodia Agreement Concerning the Prosecution under Cambodian Law of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea provides:
The Extraordinary Chambers shall exercise their jurisdiction in accordance with international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law, as set out in Articles 14 and 15 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia is a party. 
Agreement between the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia Concerning the Prosecution under Cambodian Law of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea, Phnom Penh, 6 June 2003, Article 12(2).
In accordance with Article 2 of the Agreement, Cambodia’s Law on the Establishment of the ECCC (2001), as amended, further implements these provisions. 
Agreement between the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia Concerning the Prosecution under Cambodian Law of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea, Phnom Penh, 6 June 2003, Article 2.
Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Articles 15 and 16 of the 2007 Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon provide:
Article 15
Rights of suspects during investigation
He or she shall have the following rights of which he or she shall be informed by the Prosecutor prior to questioning, in a language he or she speaks and understands:
(d) The right to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used for questioning;
Article 16
Rights of the accused
4. In the determination of any charge against the accused pursuant to this Statute, he or she shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:
(g) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in the Special Tribunal. 
Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, attached to the Agreement between the UN and the Lebanese Republic on the Establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon annexed to UN Security Council Resolution 1757 of 30 May 2007, Articles 15(d) and 16(4)(g).
ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1991)
Article 8(g) of the 1991 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind provides that an individual charged with a crime against the peace and security of mankind has the right “to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court”. 
Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, adopted by the International Law Commission, reprinted in Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-third session, 29 April–19 July 1991, UN Doc. A/46/10, 1991, Article 8(g).
ICTY Statute
Article 21(4)(f) of the 1993 ICTY Statute provides that the accused shall be entitled “to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in the International Tribunal”. 
Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, adopted by the UN Security Council, Res. 827, 25 May 1993, as amended by Res. 1166, 13 May 1998 and by Res. 1329, 30 November 2000, Article 21(4)(f).
ICTR Statute
Article 20(4)(f) of the 1994 ICTR Statute provides that the accused shall be entitled “to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in the International Tribunal for Rwanda”. 
Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighbouring States between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994, adopted by the UN Security Council, Res. 955, 8 November 1994, as amended by Res. 1165, 30 April 1998, and by Res. 1329, 30 November 2000, Article 20(4)(f).
ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1996)
Article 11(1)(g) of the 1996 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind provides that an individual charged with a crime against the peace and security of mankind has the right “[t]o have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court”. 
Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, adopted by the International Law Commission, reprinted in Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-eighth session, 6 May–26 July 1996, UN Doc. A/51/10, 1996, Article 11(1)(g).
Argentina
Argentina’s Law of War Manual (1969) provides that the accused prisoner of war “shall be authorized … to ask for the assistance of a qualified interpreter” and that a prisoner of war has the right to “use, if he considers it to be necessary, the services of a qualified interpreter”. 
Argentina, Leyes de Guerra, RC-46-1, Público, II Edición 1969, Ejército Argentino, Edición original aprobado por el Comandante en Jefe del Ejército, 9 May 1967, §§ 2.082 and 2.086.
The manual further states: “Any accused person, except if he refuses freely, can be assisted by an interpreter during the investigation as well as during the hearings before the tribunal. He can, at any time, challenge the interpreter and ask for his substitution.” 
Argentina, Leyes de Guerra, RC-46-1, Público, II Edición 1969, Ejército Argentino, Edición original aprobado por el Comandante en Jefe del Ejército, 9 May 1967, § 5.029(3).
Argentina
Argentina’s Law of War Manual (1989) states that a POW has the “right to … have access to an interpreter”. 
Argentina, Leyes de Guerra, PC-08-01, Público, Edición 1989, Estado Mayor Conjunto de las Fuerzas Armadas, aprobado por Resolución No. 489/89 del Ministerio de Defensa, 23 April 1990, § 3.30; see also § 5.09.
Canada
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) provides that accused persons in occupied territory must “be aided by an interpreter, both during preliminary investigation and during the hearing in court”. 
Canada, The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Level, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 1999, p. 12-7, § 58.
Canada
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter on rights and duties of occupying powers:
Unless they voluntarily waive such assistance, accused persons must be aided by an interpreter, both during preliminary investigation and during the hearing in court. They have the right at any time to object to the interpreter and to ask for a replacement. 
Canada, The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Levels, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 13 August 2001, § 1232.4.
Djibouti
Djibouti’s Manual on International Humanitarian Law (2004) states: “The fundamental principles concerning detention [include] … the provision of an interpreter”. 
Djibouti, Manuel sur le droit international humanitaire et les droits de l’homme applicables au travail du policier, Ministère de l’Intérieur, Direction Générale de la Police, 2004, p. 45.
Ecuador
Ecuador’s Naval Manual (1989) provides: “At a minimum, [procedural] rights must include the assistance of … an interpreter”. 
Ecuador, Aspectos Importantes del Derecho Internacional Marítimo que Deben Tener Presente los Comandantes de los Buques, Academia de Guerra Naval, 1989, § 11.8.1.
Netherlands
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “The prisoner of war is entitled to … the services of an authorized interpreter”. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0747.
New Zealand
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) provides that the accused “shall have recourse, if necessary, to the services of a qualified interpreter”. 
New Zealand, Interim Law of Armed Conflict Manual, DM 112, New Zealand Defence Force, Headquarters, Directorate of Legal Services, Wellington, November 1992, § 1130(1).
The manual further states:
Both during the preliminary investigation and during the hearing in court, the accused must be aided by an interpreter, unless such assistance is voluntarily waived. Similarly, an accused has the right at any time to object to the interpreter and to ask for his replacement. 
New Zealand, Interim Law of Armed Conflict Manual, DM 112, New Zealand Defence Force, Headquarters, Directorate of Legal Services, Wellington, November 1992, § 1330(2).
Pakistan
The Manual of Pakistan Military Law (1987) states:
Interpreter. – An interpreter will be appointed when any evidence is given in a language which the court or the accused or an officer attending the trial does not understand (PAA Rule 91). If an interpreter has been appointed he must take the interpreter’s oath or affirmation, though the proceedings are not necessarily invalidated by failure to swear or affirm the interpreter (PAA Rule 132). It will generally be convenient that the officer holding the trial should (if competent to interpret in the language of the accused) himself take the interpreter’s oath or affirmation in addition to the oath or affirmation prescribed for the court. If necessary, he can appoint a competent interpreter, who may be one of the officers attending the trial. 
Pakistan, Manual of Pakistan Military Law, Vol. 1, Ministry of Defence, Government of Pakistan, 1987, p. 54.
South Africa
South Africa’s LOAC Teaching Manual (2008) states:
1.2 Reasons for compliance with LOAC [law of armed conflict] and basic principles thereof.
Fundamental Norms and Values (rules)
The fundamental norms/val[u]es which underlie the LOAC are:
- All persons who are captured or under the authority of an adverse party are entitled to, as a minimum, the protection and guarantees bestowed upon prisoners of war (POW). 
South Africa, Advanced Law of Armed Conflict Teaching Manual, School of Military Justice, 1 April 2008, as amended to 25 October 2013, Learning Unit 1, pp. 13 and 16–17.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides, regarding disciplinary punishment of a prisoner of war: “If necessary, [the prisoner of war must] be given the services of a qualified interpreter.” 
United Kingdom, The Law of War on Land being Part III of the Manual of Military Law, The War Office, HMSO, 1958, § 208.
The manual further states: “In any judicial proceedings against him, the prisoner of war is entitled … if he so desires, to have the services of a qualified interpreter.” 
United Kingdom, The Law of War on Land being Part III of the Manual of Military Law, The War Office, HMSO, 1958, § 227.
With respect to situations of occupation, the manual states:
Unless they voluntarily waive such assistance, accused persons must be aided by an interpreter, both during preliminary investigation and during the hearing in court. They have the right at any time to object to the interpreter and to ask for his replacement. 
United Kingdom, The Law of War on Land being Part III of the Manual of Military Law, The War Office, HMSO, 1958, § 571.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states in its chapter on the protection of civilians in the hands of a party to the conflict:
Before any disciplinary punishment is awarded, the accused must be given full details of the offence and be given an opportunity to explain his conduct and to defend himself. In particular, he must be allowed to call witnesses and, if necessary, given the services of a qualified interpreter. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 9.9.
In its discussion on judicial proceedings against prisoners of war, the manual states: “In good time before the trial to enable him to exercise them, the accused must be informed of his rights to … have the services of a competent interpreter.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 8.133.
In its discussion on disciplinary measures against prisoners of war, the manual states: “Before any disciplinary award is announced, the accused must …, if necessary, be given the services of a qualified interpreter.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 8.125.
Furthermore, in its discussion on the administration of criminal law in occupied territory, the manual provides that the accused “are entitled to … an interpreter to assist both during the preliminary investigation and at the trial, together with the right to object to the interpreter at any time and to ask for his replacement”. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 11.58 11 .
Lastly, in its chapter on internal armed conflict, the manual states: “Indispensable judicial guarantees include as a minimum … the attendance of …, if necessary, an interpreter.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 15.30.5.
United States of America
The US Field Manual (1956) reproduces Articles 96 and 105 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III. 
United States, Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, US Department of the Army, 18 July 1956, as modified by Change No. 1, 15 July 1976, §§ 172 and 181.
The manual also uses the same wording as Articles 72 and 123 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV. 
United States, Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, US Department of the Army, 18 July 1956, as modified by Change No. 1, 15 July 1976, §§ 442 and 330.
United States of America
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) provides that Article 105 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III “gives [the prisoner of war] the right to … the services of a competent interpreter”. 
United States, Air Force Pamphlet 110-31, International Law – The Conduct of Armed Conflict and Air Operations, US Department of the Air Force, 1976, § 13-8.
The Pamphlet also states: “Among other rights, accused persons are assured the right to … obtain an interpreter”. 
United States, Air Force Pamphlet 110-31, International Law – The Conduct of Armed Conflict and Air Operations, US Department of the Air Force, 1976, § 14-6.
United States of America
The US Air Force Commander’s Handbook (1980) states that prisoners must be allowed “the help of … an interpreter” in case of trial. 
United States, Air Force Pamphlet 110-34, Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Armed Conflict, Judge Advocate General, US Department of the Air Force, 25 July 1980, § 4-2(c).
United States of America
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states: “At a minimum, [procedural] rights must include the assistance of … an interpreter”. 
United States, The Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, NWP 1-14M/MCWP 5-2.1/COMDTPUB P5800.7, issued by the Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Headquarters, US Marine Corps, and Department of Transportation, US Coast Guard, October 1995 (formerly NWP 9 (Rev. A)/FMFM 1-10, October 1989), § 11.7.1.
United States of America
The US Manual for Military Commissions (2007) states:
Interpreters. The convening authority may detail or employ for the military commission interpreters who shall interpret for the commission and as necessary, for the trial counsel, defense counsel, and the accused. 
United States, Manual for Military Commissions, published in implementation of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, 10 U.S.C. §§ 948a, et seq., 18 January 2007, Part II, Rule 501(d), p. II-19.
United States of America
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states:
Prisoners of war prosecuted for war crimes committed prior to capture, or for serious offenses committed after capture, are entitled to be tried by the courts that try the captor’s own forces and are to be accorded the same procedural rights. At a minimum, these rights must include the assistance of … an interpreter. 
United States, The Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, NWP 1-14M/MCWP 5-12.1/COMDTPUB P5800.7, issued by the Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Headquarters, US Marine Corps, and Department of Homeland Security, US Coast Guard, July 2007, § 11.3.1.1.
United States of America
The US Manual for Military Commissions (2010) states:
Composition and personnel of military commission
(d) Interpreters. The convening authority may detail or employ for the military commission interpreters. 
United States, Manual for Military Commissions, published in implementation of Chapter 47A of Title 10, United States Code, as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009, 10 U.S.C, §§ 948a, et seq., 27 April 2010, Rule 501(d), p. II-22.
The manual also states:
Qualifications and duties of personnel of military commissions
(e) Interpreters, reporters, escorts, bailiffs, clerks, and guards.
(3) Duties
(A) Interpreters. Interpreters shall interpret for the commission and as necessary, for the trial counsel and defense counsel and for the accused. 
United States, Manual for Military Commissions, published in implementation of Chapter 47A of Title 10, United States Code, as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009, 10 U.S.C, §§ 948a, et seq., 27 April 2010, Rule 502(e)(3)(A), p. II-28.
Note. Numerous pieces of domestic legislation provide for the right to have the free assistance of an interpreter if the accused cannot understand or speak the language used in court. 
See, e.g., Ethiopia, Constitution, 1994, Article 20(7); Germany, Criminal Procedure Code as amended, 1987, Section 259; Kenya, Constitution, 1992, Article 77(2)(f).
These have not been listed here.
Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Interim Criminal Procedure Code (2004) states:
Article 20. Interpreter.
1. The suspect or the accused who does not know the language used during the investigations and the trials or who is deaf, dumb or deaf and dumb shall be given an interpreter for, at least, explaining to him the charge and the indictment and for assisting him during the interrogations and confrontations. 
Afghanistan, Interim Criminal Procedure Code, 2004, Article 20(1).
Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Juvenile Code (2005) states:
In all stages of investigation and trial, the child shall have the right to a[n] … interpreter.
In case the parents or legal representative cannot afford a[n] … interpreter, the juvenile court shall appoint a[n] … interpreter [at] government cost.
… The … interpreter of the child has the right to be notified and [to] participate in all stages of [the] legal proceedings carried out by the prosecutor or the court. 
Afghanistan, Juvenile Code, 2005, Article 22.
Australia
Australia’s Crimes Act (1914), as amended to 2007, states:
23N Right to interpreter
Where an investigating official believes on reasonable grounds that a person who is under arrest or a protected suspect is unable, because of inadequate knowledge of the English language or a physical disability, to communicate orally with reasonable fluency in that language, the official must, before starting to question the person, arrange for the presence of an interpreter and defer the questioning or investigation until the interpreter is present. 
Australia, Crimes Act, 1914, as amended to 2007, Part IC, Division 3, s.23N, pp. 284–285.
Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s International Crimes (Tribunal) Act (1973) states that the “violation of any humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts laid down in the Geneva Conventions of 1949” is a crime. 
Bangladesh, International Crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973, Section 3(2)(e).
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Criminal Procedure Code (2003) states:
(2) Parties, witnesses and other participants in the [criminal] proceedings shall have the right to use their own language in the course of the proceedings. If such a participant does not understand one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, provisions shall be made for oral interpretation of the testimony of that person and other persons and interpretation of official documents and identifications and other written pieces of evidence.
(4) Interpretation shall be performed by a Court interpreter. 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Criminal Procedure Code, 2003, Article 8(2) and (4).
Cambodia
Cambodia’s Law on the Establishment of the ECCC (2001), as amended in 2004, provides in its chapter on investigations:
During the investigations, the Suspects shall be unconditionally entitled to assistance of counsel of their own choosing, … as well as the right to interpretation, as necessary, into and from a language they speak and understand. 
Cambodia, Law on the Establishment of the ECCC, 2001, as amended in 2004, Article 24 new.
In the Law’s chapter on the proceedings of the Extraordinary Chambers, it is further provided:
In determining charges against the accused, the accused shall be equally entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in accordance with Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
f. to have the free assistance of an interpreter if the accused cannot understand or does not speak the language used in the court. 
Cambodia, Law on the Establishment of the ECCC, 2001, as amended in 2004, Article 35 new.
China
China’s Criminal Procedure Law (1979), as amended in 1996, states:
Citizens of all nationalities shall have the right to use their native spoken and written languages in court proceedings. The People’s Courts, the People’s Procuratorates and the public security organs shall provide translations for any party to the court proceedings who is not familiar with the spoken or written language commonly used in the locality.
Where people of a minority nationality live in a concentrated community or where a number of nationalities live together in one area, court hearings shall be conducted in the spoken language commonly used in the locality, and judgments, notices and other documents shall be issued in the written language commonly used in the locality. 
China, Criminal Procedure Law, 1979, as amended in 1996, Article 9.
China
China’s Organic Law of the People’s Courts (1979), as amended in 2006, states:
Citizens of all nationalities have the right to use the spoken and written languages of their own nationalities in court proceedings. The people’s courts shall provide translation for any party to the court proceedings who is not familiar with the spoken or written languages commonly used in the locality. In an area where people of a minority nationality live in concentrated communities or where a number of minority nationalities live together, the people’s courts shall conduct hearings in the languages commonly used in the locality and issue judgments, notices and other documents in the languages commonly used in the locality. 
China, Organic Law of the People’s Courts, 1979, as amended in 2006, Article 6.
Colombia
Colombia’s Criminal Procedure Code (2004) states:
In the course of criminal proceedings, once a person has been charged with an offence, he or she has the right … :
f) to be assisted free of charge by a translator who is accredited or accepted by the judge if he or she cannot understand or speak the official language; or to an interpreter if he or she cannot understand the language or make him- or herself understood because of disability. 
Colombia, Criminal Procedure Code, 2004, Article 8(f).
Denmark
Denmark’s Military Criminal Code (1973), as amended in 1978, provides:
Any person who uses war instruments or procedures the application of which violates an international agreement entered into by Denmark or the general rules of international law, shall be liable to the same penalty [i.e. a fine, lenient imprisonment or up to 12 years’ imprisonment]. 
Denmark, Military Criminal Code, 1973, as amended in 1978, § 25(1).
Denmark’s Military Criminal Code (2005) provides:
Any person who deliberately uses war means [“krigsmiddel”] or procedures the application of which violates an international agreement entered into by Denmark or international customary law, shall be liable to the same penalty [i.e. imprisonment up to life imprisonment]. 
Denmark, Military Criminal Code, 2005, § 36(2).
Guatemala
Guatemala’s Law on the Protection of Childhood and Adolescence (2003) states: “The adolescent has the right to a free interpreter to assist him or her in all proceedings in which the interpreter’s presence is necessary and if the adolescent does not understand or speak the language used.” 
Guatemala, Law on the Protection of Childhood and Adolescence, 2003, Article 143.
Ireland
Ireland’s Geneva Conventions Act (1962), as amended in 1998, provides that any “minor breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including violations of Articles 96 and 105 of the Geneva Convention III and Articles 72 and 123 of the Geneva Convention IV, is a punishable offence. 
Ireland, Geneva Conventions Act, 1962, as amended in 1998, Section 4(1) and (4).
Israel
Israel’s Order Concerning Security Provisions (1970) states:
If the accused does not understand Hebrew the military court shall appoint him an interpreter who will translate for him the statements made during the course of the hearing and the decisions of the court, unless the accused willingly renounces his right to have the proceedings translated wholly or in part. The accused has the right to object to a particular translator and to request that he/she be replaced. 
Israel, Order Concerning Security Provisions, 1970, Section 12.
Israel
Israel’s Order regarding Security Provisions (Judea and Samaria) (2009) states with regard to the provision of a translator service for the defendant:
(a) If it becomes apparent to the military court that the defendant does not know Hebrew, the military court shall appoint a translator who will translate for him what is said during the hearing and the decisions of the court, unless the defendant willfully waives the translation, entirely or partially; the parties have the right to object to the translator and request his replacement.
(b) A piece of evidence submitted to the military court which is not in Hebrew or in another language known by the court and the parties shall be translated, and testimony that is not in such a language shall be recorded in the transcript while translating it into Hebrew, if the court has not ordered otherwise; recording of the translation into the transcript shall constitute prima facie evidence of what was translated. 
Israel, Order regarding Security Provisions (Judea and Samaria), 2009, Article 116.
Japan
Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure (1948), as amended in 2006, states:
Article 175
When the court has a person who is not proficient in the national language make a statement, it shall have an interpreter interpret it.
Article 176
When the court has a person who is unable to hear or speak make a statement, it may have an interpreter interpret it. 
Japan, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1948, as amended in 2006, Articles 175 and 176.
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s Code of Criminal Procedure for Armed Personnel (1999) states:
If the person being present in the interrogation or trial does not command the Arabic language adequately, questions must be translated into the language the said person understands through an interpreter appointed by the court or the inquiring authority after he is put under oath. 
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Code of Criminal Procedure for Armed Personnel, 1999, Article 64.
Mexico
Mexico’s Army and Air Force Manual (2009), in a section on the obligations of the occupying power under the 1949 Geneva Convention IV, states: “The rights of defence are recognized and guaranteed in that the accused has the right … to call on the services of an interpreter.” 
Mexico, Manual de Derecho Internacional Humanitario para el Ejército y la Fuerza Área Mexicanos, Ministry of National Defence, June 2009, § 238(c).
Norway
Norway’s Military Penal Code (1902), as amended in 1981, provides:
Anyone who contravenes or is accessory to the contravention of provisions relating to the protection of persons or property laid down in … the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 … is liable to imprisonment. 
Norway, Military Penal Code, 1902, as amended in 1981, § 108(a).
Peru
Peru’s Code of Military and Police Justice (2006) states:
The accused shall have the right to solicit an interpreter to assist in his or her defence if he or she does not correctly understand the official language or cannot express him- or herself in this language. If the accused does not make use of this right, the judge shall appoint an interpreter in accordance with the rules of public defence. 
Peru, Code of Military and Police Justice, 2006, Article 155.
The Code also states:
1. All procedural acts shall be carried out in Spanish.
2. Should a person not understand this language or cannot communicate easily, the necessary assistance shall be provided to allow the process to be carried out in a regular way.
3. A translator or interpreter, as required, shall be provided to persons who do not speak Spanish, to those who are allowed to communicate in their own language, and to deaf-mute persons and those with any impediment in making themselves understood.
4. Documents and recordings in a language other than Spanish shall be translated when necessary. 
Peru, Code of Military and Police Justice, 2006, Article 247.
Peru
Peru’s Military and Police Criminal Code (2010), which includes provisions on crimes under international humanitarian law, states in a chapter entitled “Procedural principles and guarantees”:
The accused has the right to request an interpreter to assist him or her in making a statement if he or she does not correctly understand the official language or cannot express him- or herself in the official language or if he or she has a physical disability and needs to express him- or herself by using sign language. If the accused does not exercise this right, the judge must assign him or her a legal aid interpreter in accordance with the rules established for legal aid defence lawyers. 
Peru, Military and Police Criminal Code, 2010, Article 149.
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone’s Constitution (1991) states:
23. Provision to secure protection of law.
(5) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence –
e. shall be permitted to have without payment the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the charge.
(10) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of any provisions of this section … to the extent that the law in question authorises the taking during a period of public emergency of measures that are reasonably justifiable for the purpose of dealing with the situation that exists before or during that period of public emergency.
29. Public emergency.
(2) The President may issue a Proclamation of a state of public emergency only when –
a. Sierra Leone is at war; [or]
b. Sierra Leone is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; or
c. there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the whole of Sierra Leone or any part thereof to such an extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security; or
d. there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the whole of Sierra Leone or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert the same; or
e. there is an occurrence of imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity affecting the community or a section of the community in Sierra Leone; or
f. there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of Sierra Leone.
(5) During a period of public emergency, the President may make such regulations and take such measures as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of maintaining and securing peace, order and good government in Sierra Leone or any part thereof. 
Sierra Leone, Constitution, 1991, Sections 23(5)(e) and (10) and 29(2) and 29(5).
South Africa
South Africa’s Constitution (1996), as amended to 2003, states:
35. Arrested, detained and accused persons
(3) Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right –
(k) to be tried in a language that the accused person understands or, if that is not practicable, to have the proceedings interpreted in that language;
(4) Whenever this section requires information to be given to a person, that information must be given in a language that the person understands.
37. States of emergency.
(1) A state of emergency may be declared only in terms of an Act of Parliament and only when –
(a) the life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency; …
(5) No Act of Parliament that authorises a declaration of a state of emergency, and no legislation enacted or other action taken in consequence of a declaration may permit or authorise –
(c) any derogation from a section mentioned in column 1 of the Table of Non-Derogable Rights, to the extent indicated opposite that section in column 3 of the Table. 
South Africa, Constitution, 1996, as amended to 2003, Sections 35(3)(k), (4), 37(1)(a) and (5)(c).
In the “Table of Non-Derogable Rights”, the Constitution includes section 35, entitled “Arrested, detained and accused persons”, and states that the right is protected “[w]ith respect to … the rights in paragraphs (a) to (o) of subsection (3), excluding paragraph (d) [and] subsection (4)”. 
South Africa, Constitution, 1996, as amended to 2003, Section 37.
South Africa
South Africa’s Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act (1999) provides:
3. (1) This Act shall, subject to subsection (2), apply to any person subject to the [Military Discipline] Code irrespective whether such person is within or outside the Republic.
(2) For the purposes of the application of this Act and the Code, “person subject to the Code” includes, to the extent and subject to the conditions prescribed in this section and in the Code –
(h) every prisoner of war as contemplated in Articles 4 and 33 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949, or by customary international law, and who is in the power of the Republic and detained by the South African National Defence Force.
Language
39. Any accused in a military trial is entitled to have the proceedings interpreted into a language preferred by the accused. 
South Africa, Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act, 1999, §§ 3 and 39.
South Africa
South Africa’s Implementation of the Geneva Conventions Act (2012) states: “A protected prisoner of war who is in the custody of the South African National Defence Force must be granted the protection of the [1949] Third [Geneva] Convention or the [1949] Fourth [Geneva] Convention, as the case may be.” 
South Africa, Implementation of the Geneva Conventions Act, 2012, Section 12(2).
The Act defines a “protected prisoner of war” as a “person protected by the Third Convention or a person who is protected as a prisoner of war under [the 1977 Additional] Protocol I”. 
South Africa, Implementation of the Geneva Conventions Act, 2012, Section 1.
Switzerland
Switzerland’s Criminal Procedure Code (2007), as amended to 2012, which regulates the prosecution and adjudication by the federal and cantonal criminal justice authorities of offences under federal law, including war crimes, states: “Where a party to the proceedings does not understand the language of the proceedings or is unable to express himself adequately, the director of proceedings shall appoint an interpreter.” 
Switzerland, Criminal Procedure Code, 2007, as amended to 2012, Article 68(1); see also Article 158(1)(d).
United States of America
The US Regulation for Trial by Military Commissions (2007), designed to facilitate the day-to-day functioning of US Military Commissions by implementing the provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) and the Manual for Military Commissions (MMC), states:
In each case before a military commission and in each instance of the taking of a deposition, the convening authority or the officer directing such proceeding shall appoint, when necessary, an interpreter for the commission or officer taking the deposition. 
United States, Regulation for Trial by Military Commissions, 27 April 2007, § 7-3.a, p. 30.
United States of America
The US Military Commissions Act (2009) amends Chapter 47A of Title 10 of the United States Code as follows:
§ 948l. Detail or employment of reporters and interpreters
“ …
“(b) INTERPRETERS.—Under such regulations as the Secretary of Defense may prescribe, the convening authority of a military commission under this chapter may detail to or employ for the military commission interpreters who shall interpret for the military commission, and, as necessary, for trial counsel and defense counsel for the military commission, and for the accused. 
United States, Military Commissions Act, 2009, § 948l(b).
Uruguay
Uruguay’s Law on Cooperation with the ICC (2006) states:
Within 48 hours of the arrest or, if the person is already deprived of his or her liberty, of properly resolving the previous matter, the Supreme Court of Justice, with the notification of the Prosecutor, carries out a hearing in which:
B) It nominates an interpreter if the detainee cannot express him- or herself in the Spanish language. 
Uruguay, Law on Cooperation with the ICC, 2006, Article 48.3.B; see also Articles 49.2.B and 50.3.B.
Venezuela
Venezuela’s Penal Procedure Code (2009), which is applicable to the prosecution of war crimes, states: “The indicted [person] will have the following rights: … to be assisted free of charge by a translator or interpreter, if he or she does not understand or speak Spanish.” 
Venezuela, Penal Procedure Code, 2009, Article 125(4); see also Article 167.
Venezuela
Venezuela’s Penal Procedure Code (2012), which is applicable to the prosecution of war crimes, states: “The indicted [person] will have the following rights: … to be assisted free of charge by a translator or interpreter, if he or she does not understand or speak Spanish.” 
Venezuela, Penal Procedure Code, 2012, Article 127(4); see also Article 151.
Viet Nam
Viet Nam’s Criminal Procedure Code (2003) states:
Spoken and written language used in the criminal procedure is Vietnamese. Participants in the criminal procedure may use spoken and written languages of their own nationalities; in this case, interpreters shall be required. 
Viet Nam, Criminal Procedure Code, 2003, § 24.
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Constitution (1979), as amended to 2009, states:
THE DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
18 Provisions to secure protection of law
(3) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence ̶
(f) shall be permitted to have without payment the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the charge.
26 Interpretation and other savings
(7) No measures taken in relation to a person who is a member of a disciplined force of a country with which Zimbabwe is at war or with which a state of hostilities exists and no law, to the extent that it authorises the taking of such measures, shall be held to be in contravention of the Declaration of Rights. 
Zimbabwe, Constitution, 1979, as amended to 2009, Sections 18(3)(f) and 26(7).
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Constitution (2013) states:
Chapter 4 – Declaration of Rights
69. Right to a fair hearing
(1) Every person accused of an offence has the right to a fair and public trial within a reasonable time before an independent and impartial court.
70. Rights of accused persons
(1) Any person accused of an offence has the following rights –
(j) to have the proceedings of the trial interpreted into a language that they understand;
(2) Where this section requires information to be given to a person –
(a) the information must be given in a language the person understands; and
(b) if the person cannot read or write, any document embodying the information must be explained in such a way that the person understands it.
86. Limitation of rights and freedoms
(2) The fundamental rights and freedoms set out in this Chapter may be limited only in terms of a law of general application and to the extent that the limitation is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including –
(b) the purpose of the limitation, in particular whether it is necessary in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, regional or town planning or the general public interest;
(3) No law may limit the following rights enshrined in this Chapter, and no person may violate them –
(e) the right to a fair trial;
87. Limitations during public emergency
(1) In addition to the limitations permitted by section 86, the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in this Chapter may be further limited by a written law providing for measures to deal with situations arising during a period of public emergency, but only to the extent permitted by this section and the Second Schedule.
(4) No law that provides for a declaration of a state of emergency, and no legislative or other measure taken in consequence of such a declaration may –
(a) indemnify, or permit or authorise an indemnity for, the State or any institution or agency of the government at any level, or any other person, in respect of any unlawful act; or
(b) limit any of the rights referred to in section 86(3), or authorise or permit any of those rights to be violated. 
Zimbabwe, Constitution, 2013, Sections 69(1), 70(1)(j) and (2), 86(2)(b) and (3)(e), and 87(1) and (4).
Canada
In 2013, in the Mungwarere case, Canada’s Ontario Superior Court of Justice acquitted Mr. Mungwarere of charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Rwanda in 1994. The Court stated:
12. The accused chose for the trial to be held in French. His mother tongue is Kinyarwanda, the official language of Rwanda. Nevertheless, he perfectly understands and speaks French, as many of his fellow countrymen who have completed their secondary education. The accused subsequently accepted for the trial to be held bilingually in order to allow for some parts of it to take place in English. This change was largely needed to allow one of his attorneys, which preferred the use of the English language while pleading, to do it in English. Throughout the proceeding, all use of English was simultaneously translated to French by certified translators.
13. On the other hand, the vast majority of testimonies were given in Kinyarwanda. This required the hiring of interpreters who could translate and communicate the questions to the witnesses in Kinyarwanda and translate their answers to French …
15. All parties soon realized that it was hard to translate in a satisfactory way from Kinyarwanda to French and from French to Kinyarwanda. Soon after the beginning of the trial, I put in place a system of verification which was approved by all parties. If the accused, the interpreter chosen by the Crown or even one of the official interpreters had a doubt on the validity of the interpretation given by the official interpreter in office at the time, he had to communicate it immediately to the court. The testimony would have been suspended at that moment and a consultation would have followed between the different interpreters and the accused until everybody would have agreed on the right interpretation. This system worked very well. As the trial went on, such interventions became less frequent, surely because the interpreters became more and more familiar with the particular expressions used by the witnesses. 
Canada, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Mungwarere case, Reasons for Judgment, 5 July 2013, §§ 12–13 and 15.
Canada
In 2004, in its fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Canada reported:
In R. v. Beaulac, the Supreme Court set out a new principle of interpretation of language rights … The Court noted the positive nature of language rights, establishing a link with the notion favoured in the area of international law that the freedom to choose is meaningless in the absence of a duty of the State to take positive steps to implement language guarantees. In the same case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the language-of-trial provisions of the Criminal Code (the right of any accused to have a trial before a judge, a jury and a prosecutor who speak the official language (English or French) of the accused, the right of the accused to have a judgment written in his official language, and the right of the accused, witnesses and the accused’s counsel to be assisted by an interpreter) create an absolute right, provided a request is made within the time allowed. The Court confirmed that such language rights are completely distinct from trial fairness and, as such, are not contingent upon the ability of the person making the request for interpretation services to understand the proceedings in the other official language. 
Canada, Fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/CAN/2004/5, 18 November 2004, § 177.
Chile
In 2006, in its fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Chile stated: “The new Code [of Criminal Procedure] also enshrines the rights of persons charged with offences … to have the services of an interpreter”. 
Chile, Fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, 5 July 2006, UN Doc. CCPR/C/CHL/5, submitted 7 February 2006, § 215.
(footnote in original omitted)
Croatia
In 2007, in its second periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Croatia stated:
In the case of suspicion or accusation for a criminal offence, the suspected, accused or prosecuted person shall have the right:
- To free assistance of an interpreter if he or she does not understand the language used in the court. 
Croatia, Second periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, 2 December 2008, UN Doc. CCPR/C/HRV/2, submitted 28 November 2007, § 206.
Mexico
In 2006, during the consideration of the third periodic report of Mexico by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a representative of Mexico stated: “The rights to a defence and a fair hearing and all rights related to due process … [are] respected. … There … [are] interpreters for children who … [do] not speak Spanish.” 
Mexico, Statement before the Committee on the Rights of the Child during the consideration of the third periodic report of Mexico, 1 June 2006, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.1141, § 18.
Oman
In 2005, in its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Oman stated:
Access to the assistance of an interpreter: The investigating authorities and the court are obliged to charge and hear the accused. His right to be heard presupposes his right to an interpreter if he does not speak Arabic so that he may exercise his rights and the court may perform its duties. This is the procedure in all courts. 
Oman, Second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 8 May 2006, UN Doc. CRC/C/OMN/2, submitted 28 April 2005, § 469.
Philippines
In its judgment in the Cuizon case in 1996, the Supreme Court of the Philippines stated:
Unfortunately, appellant Paul Lee, who does not speak or understand a word of English or Pilipino and only knows Chinese-Cantonese, was not able to take the witness stand for lack of an interpreter who would translate his testimony to English.
It is clear that appellant Lee was effectively denied his right to counsel, for although he was provided with one, he could not understand and communicate with him concerning his defense such that, among other things, no memorandum was filed on his behalf; further, he was denied his right to have compulsory process to guarantee the availability of witnesses and the production of evidence on his behalf, including the services of a qualified and competent interpreter to enable him to present his testimony. In sum, he was denied due process. For this reason, we hold that the case as against Lee must be remanded to the court of origin for a re-trial. 
Philippines, Supreme Court, Cuizon case, Judgment, 18 April 1996.
Philippines
In its judgment in the Parazo case in 1999, the Supreme Court of the Philippines stated:
Records on hand show that appellant was tried below without the benefit of a sign language expert. The fact that he was “helped and assisted by a person who has been known to him since 1983”, as noted by the trial court of origin and appearing on page 6 of the transcript of stenographic notes for February 8, 1995, is of no moment, absent any clear showing that appellant was aided by a competent sign language expert able to fully understand and interpret the actions and mutterings of appellant.
As held in People v. Crisologo:
The absence of an interpreter in sign language who could have conveyed to the accused, a deaf-mute, the full facts of the offense with which he was charged and who could also have communicated the accused’s own version of the circumstances which led to his implication in the crime, deprived the accused of a full and fair trial and a reasonable opportunity to defend himself. Not even the accused’s final plea of not guilty can excuse these inherently unjust circumstances.
The absence of a qualified interpreter in sign language and of any other means, whether in writing or otherwise, to inform the accused of the charges against him denied the accused his fundamental right to due process of law. The accuracy and fairness of the factual process by which the guilt or innocence of the accused was determined was not safeguarded. The accused could not be said to have enjoyed the right to be heard by himself and counsel, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him in the proceedings where his life and liberty were at stake.
All the foregoing studiedly considered, the court is of the irresistible conclusion that movant richly deserves a re-arraignment and re-trial. 
Philippines, Supreme Court, Parazo case, Judgment, 8 July 1999.
Uruguay
In 2003, in its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Uruguay stated that “article 74 of the Children and Adolescents Code establishes a range of guarantees of due process such as: … the right to free assistance of an interpreter if the defendant does not speak the official language sufficiently well”. 
Uruguay, Second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 13 October 2006, UN Doc. CRC/C/URY/2, submitted 18 December 2003, § 78.
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Human Rights Committee
In its General Comment on Article 14 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2007, the Human Rights Committee stated:
The right to have the free assistance of an interpreter if the accused cannot understand or speak the language used in court as provided for by article 14, paragraph 3 (f) enshrines another aspect of the principles of fairness and equality of arms in criminal proceedings. This right arises at all stages of the oral proceedings. It applies to aliens as well as to nationals. However, accused persons whose mother tongue differs from the official court language are, in principle, not entitled to the free assistance of an interpreter if they know the official language sufficiently to defend themselves effectively. 
Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32 [Article 14: Right to Equality before Courts and Tribunals and to a Fair Trial], 23 August 2007, § 40.
Human Rights Committee
In its views in Cadoret and Le Bihan v. France in 1991, the Human Rights Committee explained the scope of the right to an interpreter as follows:
The provision for the use of one official court language by States parties to the [1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] does not … violate article 14. Nor does the requirement of a fair hearing obligate State parties to make available to a person whose mother tongue differs from the official court language, the services of an interpreter, if that person is capable of understanding and expressing himself adequately in the official language. Only if the accused or the witnesses have difficulties in understanding or expressing themselves in the court language is it obligatory that the services of an interpreter be made available. 
Human Rights Committee, Cadoret and Le Bihan v. France, Views, 11 April 1991, § 5(6); see also Guesdon v. France, Views, 25 July 1990, § 10(2); Barzhig v. France, Views, 11 April 1991, § 5.5; Z. P. v. Canada, Admissibility Decision, 11 April 1991, § 5.3; C. E. A. v. Finland, Admissibility Decision, 10 July 1991, § 6.2; C. L. D. v. France, Admissibility Decision, 8 November 1991, § 4.2.
Human Rights Committee
In Juma v. Australia in 2003, the Human Rights Committee held:
The Committee reaffirms that the requirement of a fair hearing does not obligate States parties to make the services of an interpreter available ex officio or upon application to a person whose mother tongue differs from the official court language, if such person is otherwise capable of expressing himself adequately in the official language of the court. 
Human Rights Committee, Juma v. Australia, Inadmissibility Decision, 1 September 2003, § 7.3.
Human Rights Committee
In Singarasa v. Sri Lanka in 2004, the author submitted that he had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment by members of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department, in order to extract a confession. He was subsequently convicted by the High Court on the sole basis of that alleged confession, which, he claimed, amounted to a violation of his right to a fair trial. The Human Rights Committee held:
As to the claim of a violation of article 14, paragraph 3 (f) [of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], due to the absence of an external interpreter during the author’s alleged confession, the Committee notes that this provision provides for the right to an interpreter during the court hearing only, a right which was granted to the author. However, as clearly appears from the court proceedings, the confession took place in the sole presence of the two investigating officers – the Assistant Superintendent of Police and the Police Constable; the latter typed the statement and provided interpretation between Tamil and Sinhalese. The Committee concludes that the author was denied a fair trial in accordance with article 14, paragraph 1, of the Covenant by solely relying on a confession obtained in such circumstances. 
Human Rights Committee, Singarasa v. Sri Lanka, Views, 23 August 2004, § 7.2.
African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights
In a resolution adopted in 1992 on the right to recourse and fair trial, the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights considered that the right to fair trial included, inter alia: “In the determination of charges against individuals, the individual shall be entitled in particular to: … iv) Have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot speak the language used in court.” 
African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights, Eleventh Session, Tunis, 2–9 March 1992, Resolution on the Right to Recourse and Fair Trial, § 2(e)(iv).
African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights
In its decision in Malawi African Association and Others v. Mauritania in 2000, the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights held:
The right to defence should also be interpreted as including the right to understand the charges being brought against oneself. In [one of the trials under consideration which allegedly violated the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights], only 3 of the 21 accused persons spoke Arabic fluently, and this was the language used during the trial. This means that the 18 others did not have the right to defend themselves; this … constitutes a violation of [Article 7(1)(c) of the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights]. 
African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights, Malawi African Association and Others v. Mauritania (54/91), Decision, 11 May 2000, § 97.
European Court of Human Rights
In its judgment in the Luedicke, Belkacem and Koç case in 1978, the European Court of Human Rights stated:
46. The right protected by Article 6 para. 3 (e) (art. 6-3-e) [of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights] entails, for anyone who cannot speak or understand the language used in court, the right to receive the free assistance of an interpreter, without subsequently having claimed back from him payment of the costs thereby incurred.
48. Construed in the context of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6, paragraph 3 (e) (art. 6-3-e) signifies that an accused who cannot understand or speak the language used in court has the right to the free assistance of an interpreter for the translation or interpretation of all those documents or statements in the proceedings instituted against him which it is necessary for him to understand in order to have the benefit of a fair trial. 
European Court of Human Rights, Luedicke, Belkacem and Koç case, Judgment, 28 November 1978, §§ 46 and 48.
European Court of Human Rights
In its judgment in the Kamasinski case in 1989, the European Court of Human Rights stated that Article 6(3)(e) of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights
does not go so far as to require a written translation of all items of written evidence or official documents in the procedure. The interpretation assistance provided should be such as to enable the defendant to have knowledge of the case against him and to defend himself, notably by being able to put before the court his version of the events. 
European Court of Human Rights, Kamasinski case, Judgment, 19 December 1989, § 74.
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