x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The law can't be lost in translation

Efforts to improve the ability of Abu Dhabi's courts to translate the testimony of residents mean that justice is better understood in every language.

A woman confesses to having engaged in a physicalrelationship out of wedlock. Jail time beckons. After having the terms of the charge explained to her, she retracts her confession and asserts that she was in fact coerced. Another unwittingly confesses to murder, once again by virtue of misunderstanding legal terminology.

These instances highlight the importance of using precise and accurate language in the nation's courts. Because the residents of the UAE hail from such a wide variety of nations and speak so many different languages, linguistic barriers can often prove an impediment to a court's effective operation. Thankfully, the problem is now being addressed.

As The National reports today, an additional 50 language experts have been drafted to work in Abu Dhabi's courts to help eliminate costly misunderstandings. They will cover languages like Arabic, English, Urdu, Russian, Farsi, Nepalese, Bengali, Filipino, Pashto, Malay, Indonesian, Mandarin and many others. The lines of communication among all parties are being improved.

The importance of translators to the strength and fairness of the nation's legal system cannot be understated. Where family matters, property, residential and business rights are concerned, equal treatment before the law hinges on getting every word correct. If expatriate residents of the UAE do not believe that they can be fairly or adequately represented in court, the country will become a less attractive destination for those with the talent and ambition to seek opportunity.

Abu Dhabi is unlikely to be the only emirate that needs to strengthen translation capabilities in its courts. As the UAE is undergoing a nation-wide push for legal reform, a similar effort to ensure that these services are available throughout the country would do much to improve the country's legal system. Justice is a word that everyone must be able to understand, whatever language they speak.