On August 25th 2000, Ms. Horvath, an Hungarian citizen was interrogated in Dutch and English by Dutch speaking police officers of the Ghent police without the assistance of a sworn interpreter (art.47 bis of the code of criminal instruction). On March 27th 2001, she received a summon in Dutch from the prosecutor of the king of the Belgians.

On February 14th 2002, she was condemned in absentia by the tribunal of Ghent. On November 9th 2004, the court of appeal of Ghent condemned her in absentia.

On March 7th 2005, she was assisted by a Hungarian/Dutch interpreter to give her statement to the court during an appeal hearing (art.31 law June 15th 1935). It is unknown if the she was assisted by the interpreter during her meetings with her lawyer and if the key prosecution files and judgments were translated in Hungarian. On January 17th 2006, the court of appeal of Ghent found her guilty and sentenced her to the same penalty as the judgment of the tribunal of Gent. On September 18th 2006, her appeal to the supreme court (Cour de cassation) was rejected (case no P060298N).

On January 26th 2007, Ms. Horvath filed an application with the ECHR on the ground that she was not “informed promptly, in a language which she understood and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against her” in violation of article 6-1-a) of the Convention. She added that she was interrogated by police officers without an interpreter in violation of article 6-1-e) of the Convention.

On January 24th 2012, Judges Berro-Lefèvre (Monaco), Jočienė (Lithuania), Karakaş (Turkey), Popović (Serbia), Raimondi (Italy), Sajó (Hungary),  and Tulkens (Belgium) ruled unanimously her application inadmissible.  They found that Ms. Horvath was informed “of the nature and cause of the accusation against her” because she submitted a brief in Dutch to the appeal court of Ghent and didn’t request during the appeal hearing for a translation in Hungarian of the summon.

The 7 Judges of the 2nd section also concluded that the allegation of violation of article 6-1-e) was inadmissible (art.35-1 of the Convention) on the ground that the applicant didn’t complain to the Belgium supreme court about the lack of interpreter during police interrogation. But according to the judgment of the supreme court (case no P060298N 7.8.9), the applicant explicitly raised this issue. Interestingly, the same section of the Court found an allegation of violation of article 6-1-e) admissible even though the applicant didn’t complain to the Turkish supreme court about the lack of interpreter during police interrogation (Judgment Şaman v. Turkey (35292/05) .25).

On October 26th 2010, the directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings was published. It establishes for suspect or accused persons, the right to free interpretation during police interrogation (art. 2.1), meetings with lawyer (art. 2.2) and hearings (art.2.1). It also confers them the right to free translation of any detention decision, any charge or indictment, any judgment (art.3.2) and other “essentials documents” (art.3.1) as well as the right to an effective remedy to challenge refusal to provide free translation (art.2.5) or free interpretation (art.3.5).

The Kingdom of Belgium have to bring into force the law necessary to comply with this directive by 27 October 2013 (art.9).

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