Translating Justice at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Presenter: Dr. Louisa Buckingham

The trials of those indicated of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague have continued until today. The first indictments against soldiers from one of the warring factions were issued before the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in November 1995 and, two decades later, the trials of over 160 individuals, (141 different cases) have been concluded.
Most trials have relied on the testimonies of numerous witnesses from the former Yugoslavia. According to the ICTY, around 4,500 have appeared since the establishment of the court. As the trials are held in either of the Tribunals official working languages, English or French, a large group of translators, interpreters and language assistants is needed to facilitate almost all communication between the defendants, most witnesses and the officials of the court. In the Tribunal’s early years, there was little understanding of how traumatic translation/interpreting work could be, and how translators and interpreters could be supported when coping with the often highly distressing subject matter of their daily work. This study investigates the experiences of eight translators from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, in securing employment at ICTY, developing the specific linguistic expertise required, and the mechanisms they employed to cope with daily exposure to war-related material and with personal contact with the indicted.

DrLouisaBuckinghamAbout the Presenter
Doctor Louisa Buckingham is a lecturer in the School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics at the University of Auckland. In the 1990s, she worked a translator/interpreter in Bosnia-Herzegovina while employed for German Caritas. She later held a lecturing position at the University of Tuzla and a number of her students from were employed at ICTY after completing their Bachelor’s degree.