CFI's participation in international symposium forges intercontinental collaboration

(Feb. 17, 2015) _ CFI President Ariel Torrone and Camille Taiara, researcher for CFI’s upcoming White Paper on Language Access in California Courts, attended AVIDICUS’s International Symposium on Bilingual Conferencing in Legal Settings in Paris on Jan. 21-22 and met with AVIDICUS project leaders.

Torrone and Taiara’s visit represented the first time that a U.S.-based interpreter organization participated in an AVIDICUS symposium. It proved very instructive for both CFI and AVIDICUS, launching what we hope to be a new era of intercontinental collaboration on language access rights in judicial settings. The two organizations are discussing the possibility of AVIDICUS project leader Dr. Sabine Braun of the University of Surrey and Cynthia Giambruno of Universidad Alicante visiting California and participating in CFI’s next conference in October.

Funded by the European Union (EU) and launched in 2008, AVIDICUS (Assessment of Video-Mediated Interpreting in the Criminal Justice Services) is the world’s foremost research project on the use of video for providing interpretation services in judicial settings. With input from AVIDICUS, the EU adopted some basic language access standards in 2010 for cross-border criminal cases. A European e-Justice initiative was launched to share information and resources for cross-border legal matters — including guidelines and tools for the use of video-mediated interpreting.

During the symposium, CFI learned that interpretation via video is being used in a limited manner in Europe, such as:

  1. When witnesses are under such extreme danger that they must be relocated to another country or continent, and their identities protected (e.g. for war crime tribunals in Kosovo);
  2. When physical distance makes it impractical to provide in-person interpretation (e.g. for asylum cases in French territories outside the European continent);
  3. For very brief hearings for detained parties (e.g. in-camera pretrial hearings lasting 15 minutes or less, in Dutch asylum appeal cases); and
  4. For ancillary services (e.g. police-suspect interviews).

As in the US, video-conferenced interpretation is used most extensively in immigration, rather than criminal courts, in Europe. However, the interpreter is never completely remote when interpreting for the courts, as is the case with the VRI system launched in Florida or what’s being proposed in California. The interpreter is always either in the courtroom or with the person needing interpretation. All video-conferenced spoken language interpretation is conducted in the consecutive mode. Additionally, European law does not allow defendants to be prosecuted remotely.

AVIDICUS’s studies have focused on the “viability, quality and communicative dynamics” of video-mediated interpreting in legal proceedings. It is now in the final stages of its third such study, and plans to publish a handbook based on its results on March 31. AVIDICUS continues to advise the EU and member states and offers customized training modules for legal practitioners and interpreters.


Read more about AVIDICUS:

AVIDICUS 2 Final Research Report 

Video Mediated Interpreting