Swedish justice: A matter of interpretation
As a growing array of languages jostle for position in the towns and suburbs of Sweden, Faisal Enayat Khan examines some linguistic shortcomings in the country’s legal system.
In a multicultural society such as Sweden’s, the role of interpreters is vital for the smooth functioning of the justice system. But despite the fact that the agency responsible for issuing licences to interpreters has received just one formal complaint, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that linguistic mix-ups have in many cases denied non-Swedish speakers of a fair trial. Alla N Lindqvist, an authorized interpreter and former lecturer at Stockholm University, tells The Local that serious translation errors are commonplace in Swedish courtrooms.
Though proficient in five languages, Lindqvist stresses that she will only translate into and from the languages she masters perfectly. “This is no joke. We are talking about people’s lives and their destiny here,” she says. But not all interpreters are as cautious with the lives of others.
Take the case of Aaliyah (not her real name), who claims to have been the victim of repeated mental and physical abuse at the hands of her partner. The Local was in attendance at Solna District Court when Aaliyah explained her situation to the court in Arabic. “He made me abort several pregnancies. He beat me, and he also threatened to expose a nude picture he had secretly taken of me during our four-year.