CY Launches Probe Aimed at Improving Court System Interpreter Services

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The CY received a group complaint about the sub-standard quality of interpreter services in the nation’s court system which undermines the litigation rights of non-Mandarin speakers, such as foreign and aboriginal citizens. The CY therefore decided to launch an investigation into the matter and then issued a report in which it expressed the hope that courtroom interpreter services could be improved so as to ensure protection of human rights.

The report indicated that agencies under the Judicial Yuan (JY) and Executive Yuan (EY) were not using interpreter standards and procedure provisions in handling criminal cases, which went against the principal of due process in a modern country governed by the rule of law as well as against Article 14.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which stipulates that everyone should have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak the language used in court. Moreover, the JY and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) did not view the position of court interpreter as a high-level professional position, according to the report. In addition, although the Ministry of Interior (MOI) had set up a human resources database of interpreters, it lacked a credible skills assessment and certification mechanism, resulting in uneven quality in the provision interpreter services, which undermined the fair administration of justice.

The report also suggested that in order to ensure fairness and neutrality in the courts, the JY and EY should consider all the various practical possibilities in the use of courtroom interpreters and refer to advanced countries’ court interpreter policies in working to improve interpreter services in Taiwan’s courts, including formulating standards on conflict of interest, professional ethics, pay scales and so on for courtroom interpreters.

With the CY continuing with follow-up monitoring of the situation, the JY formulated the “Standard of Ethics for Courtroom Interpreters,” which stipulates that interpreters must give complete, accurate and faithful interpretations of court proceedings. The MOJ also formulated the “Principles for Prosecutorial Agencies to Observe in Utilizing Interpreters” and the “Rules of Ethics for Translation by Prosecutorial Agencies.” In addition, the MOI’s interpreter skills assessment mechanism matches that planned by the Ministry of Education, with the aim of improving the quality of interpreter services.