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New glossary in Sierra Leone’s major languages issued by UN-backed tribunal

New glossary in Sierra Leone’s major languages issued by UN-backed tribunal

The top official of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has launched the first-ever glossary of national legal terminology in the West African nation’s four major local languages.

“When people are charged before a court, they have the right to hear the case against them in a language they understand,” Herman von Hebel said at a ceremony yesterday presided over by the country’s Acting Chief Justice, Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh. “This glossary will contribute significantly in making this possible.”

The “Integrated Glossary of Legal Terminology: Krio, Limba, Mende, Themne” was compiled by the Court’s Language Unit and draws upon the experience of its interpreters.

Mr. von Hebel underscored that the new publication seeks to bolster Sierra Leone’s judicial system and voiced hope that it will be part of the SCSL’s legacy.

“We believe that the ability for a court to communicate legal terminology to those who come before it in terms they understand is crucial [for] the accessibility of justice and the right to a fair trial.”

The Court, established in January 2002 by an agreement between the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN, is mandated to try “those who bear greatest responsibility” for war crimes and crimes against community committed in the country after 30 November 1996.

The SCSL’s trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone is currently under way in The Hague.