International Criminal Justice

This page lists a wide range of resources that explore how issues of language and culture play out in situations of conflict, and then impact the transitional justice mechanisms created in their aftermath. International criminal courts and tribunals are of particular interest in this regard.

Why a Theme on International Criminal Justice?

The late-20th and early-21st centuries saw the creation of a number of international judicial bodies with the mandate of investigating and bringing to justice persons accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and/or genocide — so-called “international crimes” whose perpetration is an affront to all. Some of these bodies, such as the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court, were conceptualized outside of any national tradition, with judges and staff of diverse backgrounds applying international criminal law. Other institutions were designed as “hybrids,” such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Extraordinary African Chambers (Senegal), and they employed both national and international law, judges and staff.

Whichever model it follows, international criminal justice remains a largely Western-based system, having been shaped by common law and civil law traditions. Despite their historic and geographic proximity, these two traditions have enough conceptual and procedural differences to cause occasional friction among international judges, prosecutors and other practitioners trained in one or the other.

It is the frequent appearance of non-Western traditions, however, with their respective languages and cultures, that presents real challenges for many international criminal proceedings. How do international courts and tribunals, for example, provide accurate translation and interpretation into languages without specialized legal terminology, with no previously trained professionals, and perhaps even lacking a written tradition? How do legal practitioners trained in the West understand and judge unfamiliar practices and conceptions of causality? What do victims from conflict and postconflict zones need and want in order to be made whole again, and how does that compare to what international criminal bodies can and do provide?

The linguistic and cultural practices that exist within international criminal courts and tribunals are also complex and may pose challenges. What does it mean for justice, for example, when institutions with several working languages largely default to English, thereby privileging those who speak it with native fluency? How does the often unseen institutional culture of international criminal bodies shape everyday understandings of justice and the means by which it is pursued?

Explore for yourself through the resources below the complex set of issues associated with linguistic and cultural diversity in processes of international criminal justice, as well as in the events from which these judicial processes emerge. Send suggestions for the inclusion of other relevant publications and materials to [email protected].


Click on the type of resource below to explore an extensive thematic bibliography and more. Many of the items listed below without links may still be found gratis online through a simple Google search.

  • Baetens, Freya, ed. 2021. Identity and Diversity on the International Bench: Who Is the Judge? Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Baker, Catherine, and Kelly, Michael. 2016. Interpreting the Peace: Peace Operations, Conflict and Language in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Baker, Mona. 2006. Translation and Conflict : A Narrative Account. Routledge.

  • Baker, Mona. 2010. Critical Readings in Translation Studies. Ist. London: Routledge.

  • Balogh, Katalin, Van Schoor, Dominique, and Salaerts, Heidi, eds. 2012. TraiLLD: Training in Languages of Lesser Diffusion. Lannoo Campus Publishers.

  • Berk-Seligson, Susan. 2017. The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process. 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Carter, Linda, and Fausto Pocar. 2013. International Criminal Procedure: The Interface of Civil Law and Common Law Legal Systems. Edward Elgar Publishing.

  • Clark, Phil. 2018. Distant Justice: The Impact of the International Criminal Court on African Politics. Cambridge University Press.

  • Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2009. Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal  Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge University Press.

  • Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2019. Affective Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Pushback. Duke University Press.

  • Clarke, Karmari Maxine, and Mark Goodale, eds. 2010. Mirrors of Justice: Law and Power in the Post-Cold War Era. Cambridge University Press.

  • Cho, Jinhyun. 2021. Intercultural Communication in Interpreting: Power and Choices. Routledge.

  • Combs, Nancy A. 2010. Fact-Finding Without Facts: The Uncertain Evidentiary Foundations of International Criminal Convictions. Cambridge University Press.

  • Cotterill, J. 2002. Language in the Legal Process. Palgrave MacMillan UK.

  • Cotterill, J., ed. 2007. The Language of Sexual Crime. Palgrave MacMillan UK.

  • Dojčinović, Predag. 2012. Propaganda, War Crimes Trials and International Law: From Speaker’s Corner to War Crimes. London: Routledge.

  • Elias-Bursać, Ellen. 2015. Translating Evidence and Interpreting Testimony at a War Crimes Tribunal: Working in a Tug of War. Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Footit, Hilary, and Kelly, eds. 2012. Languages at War: Policies and Practices of Language Contacts in Conflict. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Fraser, J.A., and B.N. McGonigle Leyh, eds. 2020. Intersections of Law and Culture at the International Criminal Court. Edward Elgar Publishing.

  • Gaiba, Francesca. 1998. The Origins of Simultaneous Interpretation: The Nuremberg Trial. University of Ottawa Press.

  • Goodale, Mark. 2017. Anthropology and Law: A Critical Introduction. New York University Press.

  • Grey, Alexandra. 2021. Language Rights in a Changing China: A National Overview and Zhuang Case Study. Language Rights in a Changing China. De Gruyter Mouton.

  • Helwig, Maggie. 2005. Between Mountains. New York: Vintage Books.

  • Higgins, Noelle. 2012. Cultural Defences at the International Criminal Court. London: Routledge.

  • Inghilleri, Moira. 2012. Interpreting Justice: Ethics, Politics and Language. London: Routledge.

  • Inghilleri, Moira, and Sue-Ann Harding, eds. 2010. Translation and Violent Conflict. London: Routledge.

  • Jackson, John D., and Sarah J. Summers. 2012. The Internationalisation of Criminal Evidence: Beyond the Common Law and Civil Law Traditions. Cambridge University Press.

  • Kelsall, Tim. 2009. Culture under Cross-Examination: International Justice and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Cambridge University Press.

  • Kymlicka, Will, Claes Lernestedt, and Matt Matravers, eds. 2014. Criminal Law and Cultural Diversity. Oxford University Press.

  • Leung, Janny H.C. 2019. Shallow Equality and Symbolic Jurisprudence in Multilingual Legal Orders. Oxford Studies in Language and Law. Oxford University Press.

  • Levi, Judith N., and Anne Graffam Walker, eds. 1990. Language in the Judicial Process. New York: Plenum Press.

  • Liimatainen, Annikki et. al. eds. 2017. Legal Translation and Court Interpreting: Ethical Values, Quality, Competence Training. Forum für Fachsprachen-Forschung 140. Frank and Timme.
  • Lukin, Annabelle. 2019. War and Its Ideologies: A Social-Semiotic Theory and Description. Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Mason, Marianne. 2008. Courtroom Interpreting. New York: University Press of America.

  • Namakula, Catherine S. 2014. Language and the Right to Fair Hearing in International Criminal Trials. Springer International Publishing.

  • Olsen, F., R. Lorz, and D. Stein, eds. 2009. Translation Issues in Language and Law. Palgrave Macmillan UK.

  • Provost, René, ed. 2017. Culture in the Domains of Law. 1 edition. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

  • Reteln, Alison Dundes. 2005. The Cultural Defense. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

  •  Salama-Carr, Myriam, ed. 2007. Translating and Interpreting Conflict. New York, Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Shaw, Rosalind, Lars Waldorf, and Pierre Hazan, eds. 2010. Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities after Mass Violence. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.

  • Shlesinger, Miriam, and Franz Pöchhacker, eds. 2010. Doing Justice to Court Interpreting. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Tabory, Mala. 1980. Multilingualism in International Law and Institutions. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands; Rockville, Md., U.S.A: Sijthoff & Noordhoff.

  • Takeda, Kayoko. 2010. Interpreting the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal: A Sociopolitical Analysis. University of Ottawa Press.

  • Terris, Daniel, Cesare P. R. Romano, and Leigh Swigart. 2007. The International Judge: An Introduction to the Men and Women Who Decide the World’s Cases. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Tonkin, Humphrey, and Maria Esposito Frank, eds. 2010. The Translator as Mediator of Cultures. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • White, James Boyd. 2010. Justice as Translation: An Essay in Cultural and Legal Criticism. University of Chicago Press.

  • Wilson, Richard Ashby. 2011. Writing History in International Criminal Trials. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Wilson, Richard Ashby. 2017. Incitement on Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Articles & Book Chapters
  • Almqvist, Jessica. 2006. “The Impact of Cultural Diversity on International Criminal Proceedings.” Journal of International Criminal Justice 4(4): 745–64.

  • Anders, Gerhard. 2011. “Testifying about ‘Uncivilized Events’: Problematic Representations of Africa in the Trial against Charles Taylor.” Leiden Journal of International Law 24(4): 937–59.

  • Angermeyer, Philipp Sebastian. 2009. “Translation Style and Participant Roles in Court Interpreting.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(1):3–28.

  • Askew, Louise. 2019. “Providing Language Support for NATO Operations: Challenges and Solutions.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 231–49.

  • Baker, Catherine. 2012. “Opening the Black Box: Oral Histories of How Soldiers and Civilians Learned to Translate and Interpret During Peace Support Operations in Bosnia- Herzegovina.” Oral History Forum d’histoire orale 32. 

  • Baker, Mona. 2014. “Interpreters and Translators in the War Zone.” The Translator 16: 197–222.

  • Bassiouney, Reem. 2019. “Linguistic Unrest at Times of Revolution: The Case of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 441–60.

  • Blakesley, Christopher L. 2017. “Wrestling Tyrants: Do We Need an International Criminal Justice System?” University of the Pacific Law Review 48.

  • Bohlander, Michael. 2014. “Language, Culture, Legal Traditions, and International Criminal Justice.” Journal of International Criminal Justice 12(3): 491–513.

  • Bostian, Ida. 2005. “Cultural Relativism In International War Crimes Prosecutions: The International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda.” ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law 12(1): 1–39.

  • Bowen, Alex. 2021. “‘What You’ve Got Is a Right to Silence’: Paraphrasing the Right to Silence and the Meaning of Rights.” International Journal of Speech Language and the Law 28(1):1–29.

  • Brannan, James. 2017. “Identifying Written Translation in Criminal Proceedings as a Separate Right: Scope and Supervision under European Law.” The Journal of Specialised Translation 27.

  • Bruïne, Gabi de, Annelies Vredeveldt & Peter J. van Koppen. 2018. “Cross‐cultural Differences in Object Recognition: Comparing Asylum Seekers From Sub‐Saharan Africa and a Matched Western European Control Group.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 2018: 1-11.

  • Byrne, Rosemary. 2007. “Assessing Testimonial Evidence in Asylum Proceedings: Guiding Standards from the International Criminal Tribunals.” International Journal of Refugee Law 19(4): 609–38.

  • Cheah, W. L. 2020. “Culture and International Criminal Law.” OUP Handbook on International Criminal Law, eds. K. Heller, F. Megret, S. Nouwen, J. Ohlin and D. Robinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Chlevickaitė, Gabrielė, Barbora Hola & Catrien Bijleveld. 2020. “Judicial Witness Assessments at the ICTY, ICTR and ICC: Is There ‘Standard Practice’ in International Criminal Justice?” Journal of International Criminal Justice.

  • Cho, Jinhyun. 2021. “‘That’s Not How We Speak’: Interpreting Monolingual Ideologies in Courtrooms.” Griffith Law Review 0(0):1–21.

  • Clark, Phil. 2019. “Why International Justice Must Go Local: The ICC in Africa,” Africa Research Institute.

  • Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2015. “Refiguring the Perpetrator: Culpability, History and International Criminal Law’s Impunity Gap.” The International Journal of Human Rights 19(5): 592–614.

  • Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2019. “Affective Justice: The Racialized Imaginaries of International Justice.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 42(2):244–67.

  • Constable, Andrew. 2018. “Effective Communication in Multilingual Judicial Proceedings.” In Victim Advocacy Before the International Criminal Court, eds. E. King, R. Letschert, S. Garkawe, and E. Pobjie. Germany: Springer Law.

  • Constable, Andrew. 2012. “Methodologies and Techniques Used in Training Simultaneous Interpreters of Languages of Lesser Diffusion at the International Criminal Court.” In TraiLLD: Training in Languages of Lesser Diffusion, eds. Katalin Balogh, Heidi Salaerts, and Van Schoor, Dominique. , 69–79.

  • deGuzman, Margaret. 2018. “The Global-Local Dilemma and the ICC’s Legitimacy.” In Legitimacy and International Courts, ed. Harlan Grant et al Cohen. Cambridge University Press.

  • Der-Kévorkian, Isabelle. 2008. “Delivering Multilingual Justice: A Look into the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.” American Translators Association Chronicle

  • Donovan, Clare. 2010. “Interpreter Intervention in Bridging Cultural Gaps.” In Les Pratiques de l’Interprétation et l’Oralité Dans La Communication Interculturelle: Colloque International, ed. ISIT. Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 107–19.

  • Dragovic-Drouet, Mila. 2007. “The Practice of Translation and Interpreting During the Conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia (1991-1999).” Translating and Interpreting Conflict: 29–40.

  • Driesen, Christiane J. 2010. “Peu Avant Neuremberg et Trop Longtemps Après.” In Les Pratiques de l’Interprétation et l’Oralité Dans La Communication Interculturelle: Colloque International, ed. ISIT. Paris: L’Age d’Homme.

  • Elias-Bursać, Ellen. 2011. “Arts Commentary: Translating at the War-Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.” The Arts Fuse.

  • Elias-Bursać, Ellen. 2012. “Shaping International Justice: The Role of Translation and Interpreting at the ICTY in The Hague.” Translation and Interpreting Studies 7(1): 34–53.

  • Elias-Bursać, Ellen. 2019. “Translation Institutions: War Crimes Tribunals.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 331–51. 

  • Eltringham, Nigel. 2013. “‘Illuminating the Broader Context’: Anthropological and Historical Knowledge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(2): 338–55.

  • Eltringham, Nigel. 2014. “‘When We Walk Out, What Was It All About?’: Views on New Beginnings from within the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.” Development and Change 45(3): 543–64.

  • Fitchett, Linda. 2019. “Interpreting in Peace and Conflict: Origins, Developing Practices, and Ethics.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 183–204.

  • Footitt, Hilary. 2019. “The British in the Second World War: Translation, Language Policies, and Language Practices.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 373–94.

  • Fraser, J.A. 2019. “In Search of New Narratives: The Role of Cultural Norms and Actors in Addressing Human Rights Contestation.” In Cultures, Citizenship, and Human Rights, eds. Rosemaire Buikema, Antoine Buyse, and Antonius Robben. Routledge, 175–95. 

  • Fraser, J.A., and David Contreras. 2017. “A Legal Pluralist Approach to the Use of Cultural Perspectives in the Implementation and Adjudication of Human Rights Norms.” Buffalo Human Rights Law Review 23: 75–118.

  • Fraser, J.A., and H.H.M. Prudon. 2017. “Integrating Human Rights with Local Norms: Ebola, Burial Practices and the Right to Health in West Africa.” Intercultural Human Rights Law Review,: 71–114.

  • Fujii, Lee Ann. 2010. “Shades of Truth and Lies: Interpreting Testimonies of War and Violence.” Journal of Peace Research 47: 231–241.

  • Gallai, Fabrizio. 2019. “Interpreters at War: Testing Boundaries of Neutrality.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 205–30. 

  • García, María Luz. 2019. “Language, Culture and Justice: Ixil Mayan Verbal Art in the 2013 Genocide Trial of José Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 29(2): 239–48.

  • García, María Luz. 2019. “Translated Justice? The Ixil Maya and the Trial of José Efraín Ríos Montt for Genocide in Guatemala.” American Anthropologist 121(2): 311–24.

  • Girard, M.-H. 2019. “The Transposition of International Criminal Law Concepts into National Jurisdictions: The Case of Genocide.” Comparative Legilinguistics 41 (2020): 71–96.

  • Giridhar, Kavitha R. 2010. “Justice for All: Protecting the Translation Rights of Defendants in International War Crime Tribunals.” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 43(3): 799–830.

  • Grey, Rosemary. 2022. “Translating Gender Diversity in International Criminal Law: An Impossible but Necessary Goal.” Australian Feminist Law Journal 27(2): 163-186.

  • Heinze, Alexander. 2018. “Bridge Over Troubled Water: A Semantic Approach to Purposes and Goals in International Criminal Justice.” International Criminal Law Review 18: 929-957.

  • Heinze, Alexander. 2018. “Planning and Inciting Violent Protests Through Social Media.” In Criminal Law and Practice Review 2, eds. L. Heffernan and D. Prendergast. Clarus Press, 29-51.

  • Henderson, Emily. 2015. “Communicative Competence? Judges, Advocates and Intermediaries Discuss Communication Issues in the Cross-Examination of Vulnerable Witnesses.” Criminal Law Review 9: 659–678.

  • Hepburn, Philip. 2012. “The Translation of Evidence at the ICTY.” Translation and Interpreting Studies 7(1): 54–71.

  • Iliff, Andrew R. 2012. “Root and Branch: Discourses of ‘Tradition’ in Grassroots Transitional Justice.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 6(2): 253–73.

  • Jackson, John, and Yassin M’boge. 2013. “The Effect of Legal Culture on the Development of International Evidentiary Practice: From the ‘Robing Room’ to the ‘Melting Pot.’” Leiden Journal of International Law 26(4): 947–70.

  • Jones, Francis. 2004. “Ethics, Aesthetics and Décision: Literary Translating in the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession.” Meta : journal des traducteurs / Meta: Translators’ Journal 49(4): 711–28.

  • Karton, Joshua. 2008. “Lost in Translation: International Criminal Tribunals and the Legal Implications of Interpreted Testimony.” Vanderbilt Journal of Transitional Law 41(1).

  • Kelly, Michael. 2019a. “Language and New Forms of Warfare.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 481–98.

  • Kelly, Michael. 2019b. “Language Policy and War.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 91–109.

  • Kelsall, Tim. 2010. “International Criminal Justice and Non-Western Cultures” (pdf), Oxford Transitional Justice Working Paper Series. 

  • Koomen, Jonneke. 2013. “‘Without These Women, the Tribunal Cannot Do Anything’: The Politics of Witness Testimony on Sexual Violence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.” Signs 38(2): 253–77.

  • Koomen, Jonneke. 2014. “Language Work at International Criminal Courts.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16(4): 581–600.

  • Kunreuther, Laura. 2020. “Earwitnesses and Transparent Conduits of Voice: On the Labor of Field Interpreters for UN Missions.” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 11(3):298-316.

  • Kunreuther, Laura, Shiva Acharya, Ann Hunkins, Sachchi Ghimire Karki, Hikmat Khadka, Loknath Sangroula, Mark Turin, and Laurie Vasily. 2021. “Interpreting the Human Rights Field: A Conversation.” Journal of Human Rights Practice 13(1):24–44.

  • Leal, Sharon et al. 2018. “Cross-cultural Verbal Deception.” Legal and Criminological Psychology 23: 192–213. 

  • Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1994. “Accent, Standard Language Ideology, and Discriminatory Pretext in the Courts.” Language in Society 23(2):163–98.

  • Lukin, Annabelle. 2020. “How International War Law Makes Violence Legal: A Case Study of the Rome Statute.” Language, Context and Text 2(1):91–120.

  • >Maier, Carol. 2007. “The Translator’s Visibility: The Rights and Responsibilities Thereof.” Translating and Interpreting Conflict: 253–66.

  • Maryns, Katrijn, and Emmanuelle Gallez. 2014. “Orality and Authenticity in an Interpreter-Mediated Defendant’s Examination: A Case Study from the Belgian Assize Court.” Interpreting 16(1).

  • McGonigle Leyh, B.N. 2012. “Victim-Oriented Measures at International Criminal Institutions: Participation and Its Pitfalls.” International Criminal Law Review 12(3): 375–408.

  • McGonigle Leyh, B.N. 2017. “Changing Landscapes in Documentation Efforts: Civil Society Documentation of Serious Human Rights Violations.” Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 33(84): 44–58.

  • McGonigle Leyh, B.N., and J.A. Fraser. 2019. “Transformative Reparations: Changing the Game or More of the Same?” Cambridge International Law Journal 8: 39–59.

  • McLaughlin, Fiona. 2015. “Linguistic Warscapes of Northern Mali.” Linguistic Landscape 1(3): 213-242.

  • Merry, Sally Engle. 2010. “Beyond Compliance: Toward an Anthropological Understanding of International Justice.” Mirrors of Justice: Law and Power in the Post-Cold War EraClarke, K. M., & Goodale, M. (eds.). Cambridge University Press.

  • Mišković-Luković, Mirjana, and Mirjana Dedaić. 2012. “The Discourse Marker Odnosno at the ICTY: A Case of Disputed Translation in War Crime Trials.” Journal of Pragmatics 44: 1355–1377.

  • Namakula, Catherine. 2012. “Language Rights in the Minimum Guarantees of Fair Criminal Trial.” International Journal of Speech Language and the Law 19: 73.

  • Nikolić, Marijana. 2005. “Interpretation after Nuremberg: International War Crimes Trials.” Proteus XIV(1).

  • Nouwen, Sarah M.H., and Wouter G. Werner. 2015. “Monopolizing Global Justice: International Criminal Law as Challenge to Human Diversity.” Journal of International Criminal Justice 13.

  • Paúl, Álvaro. 2012. Translation Challenges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Cost-Effective Proposals for Improvement. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. SSRN Scholarly Paper.

  • Pirker, Benedikt, and Jennifer Smolka. 2020. “International Law and Linguistics: Pieces of an Interdisciplinary Puzzle.” Journal of International Dispute Settlement 11(4):501–21.

  • Pozo Triviño, Maribel del. 2017. The right of gender violence victims and survivors to quality translation and interpreting according to legislation. The SOS-VICS contribution. In Legal Translation and Court Interpreting: Ethical Values, Quality, Competence Training. Annikki Liimatainen et. al., eds. Forum für Fachsprachen-Forschung 140. Frank and Timme.

  • Provost, René. 2015. “Interpretation in International Law as a Transcultural Project.” In Interpretation in International Law, eds. Andrea Bianchi, Daniel Peat, and Matthew Windsor. Oxford University Press.

  • Rafael, Vincente. 2010. “Translation in Wartime.” In Critical Readings in Translation Studies, ed. Mona Baker. London: Routledge, 383–90.

  • Raimondo, Fabiano O. 2011. “For Further Research on the Relationship between Cultural Diversity and International Criminal Law.” International Criminal Law Review 11: 299–314.

  • Reteln, Alison Dundes. 2011. “Cultural Defenses in International Criminal Tribunals: A Preliminary Consideration of the Issues.” Southwestern Journal of International Law 18(1): 267–85.

  • Rickford, John R., and Sharese King. 2016. “Language and Linguistics on Trial: Hearing Rachel Jeantel (and Other Vernacular Speakers) in the Courtroom and Beyond.” Language 92(4): 948–88.

  • Romano, Cesare P.R. 2003. “The Americanization of Internationl Dispute Resolution.” Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution 19(1).

  • Ruiz-Cortés, Elena. 2020. “Language in Supranational and National Law-Making: The Case of Directives and Their Transposition into National Law.” International Journal of Language & Law (JLL) 8(0).

  • Salama-Carr, Myriam. 2019. “From the Page to the Battlefield and Back: Translating War.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict, eds. Michael Kelly, Hilary Footitt, and Myriam Salama-Carr. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 73–89.

  • Šašić, Borislava. 2015. “Negotiated Translation: International Criminal Law – Implications for the Specialized Training of Translators and Interpreters.” In Topics in Translator and Interpreter Training, Novi Sad: Filozofski Fakultet, 101–15.

  • Schotmans, Martien. 2015. “Non-Official Use of Tradition: A Case Study on Sierra Leone.” In International Actors and Traditional Justice in Sub-Saharan Africa, eds. Eva Brems, Giselle Corradi, and Martien Schotmans. Intersententia.

  • Schweda Nicholson, Nancy. 2010. “Interpreting at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).” In The Translator as Mediator of Cultures, eds. H. Tokin and M. Esposito Frank. Studies in World Language Problems 3. John Benjamins Publishing Co.

  • Shapiro-Phim, Toni. Forthcoming. “Imagining Alternatives.” In Reflections in the Aftermath of Mass Violence, eds. Laura McGrew and Eve Zucker. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

  • Shapiro-Phim, Toni. 2019a. “Embodying the Pain and Cruelty of Others.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 14(1):209–19.

  • Shapiro-Phim, Toni. 2019b. “Turning a Bitter Person Sweet,” Liberian Studies Journal, Vol. 41:46-54.

  • Shaw, Rosalind. 2014. “The TRC, the NGO and the Child: Young People and Post-Conflict Futures in Sierra Leone.” Social Anthropology 22(3): 306–25.

  • Smith van Lin, Lorraine. 2016. “When We Don’t Speak the Same Language: the Challenge of Multilingualism at the ICC.” In The International Criminal Court and Africa: One Decade On, ed. Evelyn Ankumah. Intersentia.

  • Stern, Ludmilla. 2004. “Interpreting Legal Language at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: Overcoming the Lack of Lexcial Equivalents.” The Journal of Specialised Translation (02).

  • Swigart, Leigh. 2010. “The ‘National Judge’: Some Reflections on Diversity in International Courts and Tribunals.” Pacific Law Journal 1: 223–42.

  • Swigart, Leigh. 2015. “African Languages in International Criminal Justice: The International Criminal Tribunal and Beyond.” In Promoting Accountability for Gross Human Rights Violations: Essays in Honour of Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow, eds. Charles C. Jalloh and Alhagi Marong. The Hague: Brill/Martinus Nijhoff.  

  • Swigart, Leigh. 2016. “Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in International Criminal Justice: Toward Bridging the Divide.” University of the Pacific Law Review 48(2). 

  • Swigart, Leigh. 2019. “Unseen and Unsung: ICC Language Services and Their Impact on Institutional Legitimacy.” In Legitimacy of Unseen Actors in International Adjudication, ed. Freya Baetens. Cambridge University Press, 272–96. 

  • Swigart, Leigh. 2020. “Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Culture at the International Criminal Court.” In Interactions of Law and Culture at the International Criminal Court, eds. J. Fraser and B.N. McGonigle Leyh. Edward Elgar Publishing. 

  • Swigart, Leigh. 2022. “The Impacts of English-Language Hegemony on the International Criminal Court.” In International Criminal Law: A Counter-Hegemonic Project? Florian Jessberger, Leonie Steinl and Kalika Mehta, Eds., Springer.

  • Taylor, P.J. et al. 2017. “Culture Moderates Changes in Linguistic Self-presentation and Detail Provision when Deceiving Others.” Royal Society Open Science 4: 1–11.

  • Thomas, Marc A. Simon. 2018. “Culture in the Domains of Law.” The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 50(2): 237–38.

  • Tobia, Simona. 2010. “Crime and Judgement: Interpreters/Translators in British War Crimes Trials, 1945-1949 .” Translation and Violent Conflict.

  • Tomić, Alexandra, and Ana Beltrán Montoliu. 2013. “Translation at the International Criminal Court.” New Trends in Translation Studies 1: 221–42.

  • Waters, Timothy William. 2006. Unexploded Bomb: Voice, Silence and Consequence at the Hague Tribunals – a Legal and Rhetorical Critique. SSRN Scholarly Paper. ID 900216. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

  • Wilson, Richard A. 2000. “Rethinking Legal Pluralism and Human Rights.” Current Anthropology 41(1): 75–98.

  • Wilson, Richard A. 2015. “Inciting Genocide with Words.” Michigan Journal of International Law 36 (2): 278-320

  • Wilson, Richard A. 2016a. “Expert Evidence on Trial: Social Researchers in the International Criminal Courtroom.” American Ethnologist 43(4): 730–44.

  • Wilson, Richard A. 2016b. “Propaganda and History in International Criminal Trials.” Journal of International Criminal Justice 14(3): 519–41.

  • Xu, Han, Sandra Hale, and Ludmila Stern. 2020. “Telephone Interpreting in Lawyer-Client Interviews: An Observational Study.” Translation & Interpreting 12(1):18–36.

Oral Histories

Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project

From Brandeis University’s Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, which captures the memories, perspectives and reflections of persons involved in the early institution-building years of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The full collection of 30 oral history interviews, recorded between 2015 and 2017, is available at the Brandeis Institutional Respository, where a collection-wide search may also be made. The four interviews below are relevant to the Hub’s focus.

  • Ellen Elias-Bursać (2016), ICTY translator/reviser (periodically from 1998-2002; full-time from 2005-2010). Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University.

  • Alexandra Tomić (2015), ICTY Interpreter (1994-2002); current Chief of the ICC Language Services Section. Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University.

  • Gregory Townsend (2017) ICTR Registry and Chambers (1998-2000); ICTR Office of the Prosecutor (2000-03, 2005-07); ICTY Office of the Prosecutor (2007-08); ICTY Registry (2014-present); trained interpreter and translator. Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University.

  • Diederick Zanen (2015), ICTY Language Specialist in Office of the Prosecutor (1998-2010); current head of the Field and Operational Interpretation Unit within Language Services Section of the ICC Registry. Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University.

Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal

From Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal, a collection of 49 video interviews conducted with personnel from the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Collected in 2008, these interviews reveal the challenges of striving for justice and reconciliation after genocide. 

  • Access four interviews relevant to issues of language and culture in the Tribunal’s work: François Bembatoum, Chief Interpreter; Ololade Benson, Translator; Justine Ndongo-Keller, Chief of Language Services; and Colette Ngoya; Translator.

Film & Video

Full-Length Documentary Films

  • “Because of the War” (2018), directed by Toni Shapiro-Phim. A documentary about the anti-violence efforts of four women artists in Liberia and the U.S. Winner of the American Folklore Society Elli Köngäs–Maranda Prize for “superior work on women’s traditional, vernacular or local culture and/or feminist theory and folklore.”

  • “Fambul Tok” (2011), directed by Sara Terry. This documentary shows victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war coming together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level — succeeding where the international community’s postconflict efforts failed (1:23:00).

  • “In Flow of Words” (2021), directed by Eliane Esther Bots. This film follows the narratives of three interpreters of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. They interpreted shocking testimonies from witnesses, victims and perpetrators, without ever allowing their own emotions, feelings and personal histories to be present. Contrary to their position at the tribunal, this film places their voices and experiences center stage. Learn more at the film website.
  • “The Tenth Dancer” (1992), directed by Sally Ingleton. This is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a teacher and her pupil set against the backdrop of war-torn Cambodia. The film weaves betwen the past and the present, memory and dream, to reveal a story of human dignity and survival (52:00). Watch the trailer for “The Tenth Dancer” and visit “The Tenth Dancer” website.

  • “The Uncondemned” (2016), by Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel. This film tells the story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none. It provides a sense of what a multilingual and cross-cultural criminal investigation and trial procedure look like.

  • “War Don Don” (2010), by Rebecca Richman Cohen. This film follows the trial of Issa Sesay at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone. With unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and, from behind bars, Sesay himself, the film puts international justice itself on trial (1:25:00). Watch the “War Don Don” trailer and visit the “War Don Don” website.

Video Selections

  • “Court Interpreters: Access to Justice” (16 January 2020), by United States Courts Knowledge Seminars. This one-hour seminar, featuring a panel discussion between two US federal judges and two career interpreters, explores the critical role of interpreters in ensuring that defendants are able to understand proceedings and assist in their own defense.

  • “Equating Justice: Using Minority Languages at Criminal Trials” (13 April 2017), by Gearoidin McEvoy. In this short video, McEvoy explains the importance of her research around the “inequality of arms” created when minority language-speakers cannot properly follow their judicial proceedings (2:00).

  • “ICC Judges in Case Against Katanga and Ngudjolo Chui Visit Ituri” (27 January 2012). ICC judges, along with the prosecutor, the defense and the legal representatives of victims, make a site visit to the scenes of the alleged crimes in the case to better understand the context of witness testimony (10:05).

  • “Justice for Jeantel (and Trayvon): Fighting Dialect Prejudice in Courtrooms and Beyond” (31 October 2016). A lecture by Professor John Rickford of Stanford University. When George Zimmerman was tried in a Florida court for the homicide of Trayvon Martin, the testimony of Rachel Jeantel was critical to the prosecution’s case but was ignored by the jury. Rickford contends that this happened because Jeantel spoke African-American Vernacular English.

  • “A Moment in Mexico: Justice in Translation” (10 December 2018). Directed by Sergio Blanco. New York Times op-doc about an indigenous language interpreter in Mexican courts who seeks to break down barriers and confront a judicial system that is linguistically challenged (12:16).

  • “Phka Sla Dancer Drama” (2019), by Sophiline Arts Ensemble. This video documents a choreographed drama inspired by testimony given at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The choreography constituted a cultural and moral reparations component of the judicial decision rendered in the case against Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, leaders of the Khmer Rouge who carried out the regime’s practice of forced marriage. The reparations project seeks to bring some measure of peace to the victims of forced marriage by giving them the opportunity to acknowledge their oft-repressed feelings about their experiences, and also to ensure that future generations are educated about what happened (1:22:16). Read a review of “Phka Sla.”

  • “Preparing ASEM: The European Commission Trains Mongolian Interpreters (29 June 2016). In anticipation for Mongolia hosting the 11th Summit of Asian and European heads of state and government in Ulaanbaatar, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Interpretation trains the first conference interpreters working into Mongolian. The trainees are followed for five months from the first day of training to their final diploma. The video shows the effort necessary to create a brand new cadre of interpreters, something that the International Criminal Court needs to do for many of its cases (8:51).