Court Translation and Interpreting in Greece
Main issues with court translation and interpreting
The state is legally obligated to establish and fund a comprehensive and viable court translation and interpreting system.
The current selection criteria for translators and interpreters are unsuitable, as they accept a very low level of foreign language competence, without even requiring rudimentary translation adequacy.
The system of lists at first-instance courts in antiquated, and does not meet the state’s obligation to institute a national register of court translators and interpreters.
The fee ranges from €10 to €15 for court interpreting assignments that often last for hours, while it borders on offensive that they may be paid with several years’ delay.
Criminal proceedings – Article 238(b) of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) violates Directive 2010/64/EU on what is the most crucial point. The Directive clearly states that only the state pays. However, the CCP requires that the suspect or defendant also pay! PEM welcomes the new CCP that as of September 2019 has abolished this unacceptable distortion of EU Directive 2010/64. Payment of all translation and interpreting expenses is now stated clearly to be made fully out of the public purse without any conditions
A criminal trial cannot be fair without full and strict compliance with Directives 2010/64/EU and 2012/13/EU. PEM supports all the relevant proposals of the National Commission for Human Rights (only available in Greek).
Civil proceedings – In civil proceedings, the bar for translating skill and competence is set even lower than in criminal proceedings. This is gradually degrading the use of the Greek language in the civil courts. Statutory provisions similar to those of Directive 2010/64/EU must also apply for civil proceedings.
Our proposals for court translation and interpreting
Comprehensive and viable system
We are seeking the institution and development of an adequate system for court translation and interpreting through:
- Regular funding from the national budget – The nature of the justice system, from the preliminary investigation of the suspect by the police to the final judgment, does not permit the generalised use of self-funding of court translation and interpreting, not to mention unacceptable solutions, such as demanding that suspects pay out of their own pockets.
- We fully support the relevant provisions of Directive 2010/64/EU: they must be implemented immediately, with amendments being made to the articles of the CCP wherever necessary.
- A system guaranteeing the validity of linguistic services – For example, when a specific interpretation or translation is challenged or carries significant weight, the court must have access to a second team for review, supervision or approval.
- The upgrade and active protection of the prestige of professionals who offer interpreting or translation services in courts.
- A fast, realistic and friendly system for paying the professionals.
- Long-term agreements with professional interpreters and translators, who will be selected and supervised based on specific criteria.
- Special provisions for lesser known languages – Many cases involve people who speak Asian or African languages and other even lesser known languages and dialects.
- Implementation of the spirit and letter of the European Directive when it comes to developing an ongoing training programme for court officials, lawyers, police officers and court employees. It is the only way for them to better assess the translation aspect of the cases they handle.
- Suitable technical infrastructure – The road map, which the Directives mentioned above form part of, calls for digital systems to guide the effectiveness, transparency and interconnection of all stages of the procedure.
The Panhellenic Association of Translators will stand by every effort to further work on and implement everything mentioned above. We note that an Action Plan for e-Justice and Administrative Upgrading (only available in Greek) has already been formulated. We also realised that the relevant NSRF tender (only available in Greek) was open until May 2019. However, we were never asked to submit our proposals.
Proper adequacy criteria for qualifications
Our views on this matter include the institution of an integrated national framework of qualifications, in line with European ones, for all the professions we represent, based on the criteria for joining PEM, as they are strict, fair and based on international standards.
- Radical revision of the statutory definition of “excellent knowledge” of a foreign language set out in Decision No. 67299 (Government Gazette 3711/B/10.10.2014), which allows secondary education graduates and holders of certificates of proficient knowledge of Greek to take on the role of court interpreter and/or translator. Decision No. Π23ΜΕΤ−30185/ΑΣ 14791 (Government Gazette 2658/B/31-.12.2008) is similar.
- Implementation of a framework of proper competence criteria in civil proceedings as well.
Accuracy in the use of the relevant terminology
Law 4236/2014 refers to interpreters of oral discussions and documents, without making a distinction as to translators (Article 3). In the same law (Article 6), however, there is also mention of interpreting and translation.
We request that these terms be redefined properly, as ambiguity has a negative impact on the court procedure when interpreting or translation is required.
Contemporary systems and register
Directive 2010/64/EU calls for the creation of an integrated register of independent court interpreters and translators, with the right qualifications, and a system based on the standards outlined above. This requirement has yet to be implemented.
- Replacing the lists per first-instance court immediately with an integrated list of approved interpreters and translators.
- Ensuring procedural and technical interconnection of the new integrated register with the police authorities.
- Having safeguards in place to protect the rights and personal data of interpreters and translators.
- Interconnecting the register with existing and future registers in other countries.
Linguistic integrity in civil proceedings
Professional interpreters and translators are institutional guarantors of a fair trial (National Commission for Human Rights – NCHR). This applies equally to civil proceedings. Translators/interpreters are not just speakers of a language. The fair and swift administration of justice is not promoted by omitting translation/interpreting.
Excellent knowledge of the relevant terminology and an exceptional ability to render it within tight time limits is also required.
There is also a cultural dimension, which is something a seasoned and trained translator/interpreter can, by definition, take into account.
We asked the Ministry of Justice to take steps to safeguard court interpreting and translation in civil proceedings, similar to those that apply for criminal proceedings.
Our key strategic objective is to showcase Modern Greek. We do not want to see our language not being used properly, especially not in the Greek courts.
The essence of some of the new provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure has raised concerns among us, since there is a distinct possibility that the view that foreign-language evidence may be admissible without a Greek translation could gradually come to prevail.
A truly fair trial
We support all the NCHR recommendations (only available in Greek) to the state with regard to ensuring fair trials.
We urge the Ministry of Justice to take steps to implement those recommendations.