Safeguarding personnel

The other major initiative has been one of public awareness raising and personnel protection. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) has taken a leading role in publicizing the hitherto hidden plight of language intermediaries working in crisis zones. As Linda Fitchett pointed out (2012), there has been no central registry of interpreter deaths, although at least 360 interpreters were killed, and more than 1200 injured in Iraq, working with US forces between 2003 and 2008. Protection of interpreters in the field and, most importantly, post conflict, has been shamefully inadequate, as the forty-six pending legal cases against the UK government mounted by former Iraqui interpreters, or their next of kin, demonstrate. AIIC’s approach, in concert with the lobbying group Red T, has been to develop a ‘Conflict Zone Field Guide for Civilian Translators/Interpreters and Users of Their Services’ (http://aiic.net/page/3853). This sets out in a clear and brief format the responsibilities and rights of both the interpreters themselves ( including Impartiality, Confidentiality, Accuracy), and of their employers (Respect, Protection, Support and so on).

Whilst some language research has challenged the interpreter paradigm of neutrality and impartiality, organisations seeking to safeguard and protect personnel in the field have been keen to position interpreters alongside organisations and professions which enjoy some measure of internationally accepted protection by virtue of their perceived neutrality. Red T in particular ( www.red-t.org) has called for interpreters to be given, ‘protected person status akin to that granted to ICRC staff’, and argued that there should be a UN resolution, ‘conferring legal status on Translators and Interpreters operating in conflict zones (similar to Resolution 1738 protecting journalists)’.

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