HIGHLIGHT: Public Lecture by Dr Leigh Swigart, Brandeis University: Global Court, Local Languages: How the International Criminal Court Pursues Multilingual Justice
Dr. Leigh Swigart of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Brandeis University, on November 30, 2017 in the afternoon at the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar, offered an insightful talk on efforts made by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure that “languages of lesser diffusion” can play an effective role in its proceedings. The speaker, a former Director of WARC, is currently conducting an ethnographic research project on how the ICC addresses challenges raised by
multilingualism, especially those associated with African languages. In her remarks, Dr. Swigart described how the ICC is bound to respect the rights of accused persons, including their right to communicate in a language they understand and speak well. The Court has generally extended this right to witnesses and victims in its efforts to bring accountability and justice to countries affected by war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other crimes under its jurisdiction.
In their various contributions, members of the audience pointed out the fact that the Court’s use of languages of lesser diffusion was a great opportunity for the promotion of African languages and their role in international fora. They also commended Dr. Swigart and the ICC for the visibility offered to African languages and efforts made to ensure fair trials for all.