Language and the Administration of Justice: The International Framework

in International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
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Abstract

Language use in court proceedings, in prisons, and in communications with the police are three areas of interest within the domain of the administration of justice. If the existing standards that are of explicit or implicit relevance for language use in the administration of justice are analysed, the relevant general human rights provisions, minority rights standards and prison rules should be studied. Whereas the first category of rights reflects concerns of justice and fairness, and are thus formulated in terms of ’language one understands’, the second one refers more directly to minority languages (and thus also languages of the various population groups in plural societies without majority population). However, the latter provisions are so vague and replete with escape clauses that their actual contribution to the accommodation of linguistic diversity in respect of the administration of justice remains doubtful. The prison rules do not reveal any great attention to language issues, but the European Prison Rules (Council of Europe) definitely provide important guidelines. The specific Council of Europe Recommendation regarding Foreign Prisoners is much more language-sensitive and is arguably also applicable by analogy to prisoners speaking a language differing from the preferred state language. Overall, it is obvious that this area of law and its specific problems are little analyzed and not yet fully explored. It is to be hoped that this article will contribute to both the academic debate and policy developments in multilingual states.

Language and the Administration of Justice: The International Framework

in International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

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