Lubanga Defense Again Raises Concerns About Translation Errors

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo’s defense team again raised concerns about the accuracy of the translations and transcripts of the proceedings.  Defense counsel Catherine Mabile reported to the chamber that the defense had found “extremely important discrepancies” in the testimony of some witnesses.  It is unclear what the discrepancies were.  The Open Society Institute blogged the report here. The trial was previously stopped because of reported errors in translation and transcription which was blogged here, and by the Open Society Institute blog here.

The official languages of the International Criminal Court are English and French and all proceedings are simultaneously translated and transcribed in both languages.  Both transcripts are intended to be authoritative records of the trial proceedings.  Witnesses often testify in a third language so the possibility for errors and for entirely different translations of the testimony effects the quality of the record.

Thomas Lubanga is the first accused to come to trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Lubanga was brought to the court in 2007, his trial commenced in January 2009.  The defense began to present its case in January 2010.  Lubanga was the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC in French) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is accused of the war crime of recruiting, conscripting and using child soldiers.  The defense has contested the evidence that soldiers were younger than 15 at the time they joined the UPC and have asserted that some of the witnesses were not in fact in the UPC.

The ICC was created by the Treaty of Rome, and became effective when 60 nations ratified that treaty in July 2002.  The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes occurring after that date within the countries that have ratified the treaty or by nationals of countries that have ratified the treaty. The ICC can assert jurisdiction over cases when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.  The ICC has investigations open in the DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and has opened an investigation into the post-election violence in Kenya.  In addition to those nations which have signed the treaty, the ICC has an active investigation and indictments against three persons regarding Darfur, Sudan.  The Darfur situation was referred to the court by the Security Council of the United Nations and is different from the other cases because Sudan is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome.  The ICC is seated in The Hague, The Netherlands.