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Court interpreting during cross-examinations in arbitration proceedings: Challenges

21.03.2024

Court interpreting is a demanding task that requires special skills and expertise, especially when it comes to interpreting complex cross-examinations in arbitration proceedings. Cross-examination is particularly challenging for court interpreters, who must not only overcome language barriers, but also accurately capture the tone, nuances and intent of the testimony. In Switzerland, where cross-examination is not part of the standard legal system, this task is made even more difficult.

What exactly is a cross-examination?

Cross-examination is a critical stage of a court case in which one party, often the opposing party, questions a witness or person who has already given evidence in depth. The purpose of cross-examination is to test the witness’s credibility, to expose inconsistencies and possibly to elicit new information that may be relevant to the case. Tough questions can be asked to test the consistency and persuasiveness of the evidence.

What are the advantages of cross-examination?

  • Credibility check: By asking specific questions, lawyers or judges can uncover possible inconsistencies or contradictions in the statements of a witness, which can help to scrutinise the truthfulness of the statements.
  • Exposing contradictions: Cross-examination makes it possible to uncover inconsistencies between a witness’s testimony and other evidence, which in turn can help to strengthen or weaken the argument of the parties involved.
  • Obtaining additional information: Skilful questioning can reveal relevant details that might not have come up during direct questioning.
  • Checking the credibility of evidence: Cross-examination provides an opportunity to test the credibility of the evidence presented and to assess its reliability.
  • Clarification of ambiguities: Cross-examination allows the parties to clarify ambiguities or misunderstandings in a witness’s testimony and ensure that all relevant aspects of the case are clearly presented.

Cross-examination thus helps to establish the truth in a dispute and enables a fair decision to be reached.

Is cross-examination common in Switzerland?

Cross-examination is less common in Switzerland than in other jurisdictions. It is not provided for in Swiss civil procedure law and is therefore used less frequently than, for example, in Anglo-American legal systems. In a cross-examination witnesses called by the parties are not questioned by the presiding judge, as is currently the case in Switzerland, but by the parties themselves.

When is cross-examination used in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, cross-examination is commonly used in arbitration proceedings, particularly in international arbitration. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution procedure in which the parties agree to settle their disputes before a private arbitration tribunal instead of the state courts. In such cases, cross-examination may be part of the proceedings in order to test evidence and clarify the facts of the case.

What are the challenges for court interpreters during cross-examinations in arbitration proceedings?

The challenges faced by court interpreters during cross-examinations in arbitration proceedings are many and varied. In addition to basic skills such as

  • Excellent command of the source and target language, including an extensive vocabulary and sound knowledge of legal terminology,
  • Cultural sensitivity in order to correctly understand and convey the finest nuances and implicit meanings between languages,
  • Sound legal knowledge of the legal systems of the countries involved in the proceedings in order to be able to translate complex legal concepts and terms accurately,

they must have other specific competences.

The ability to interpret quickly and accurately, taking into account complex legal terms and concepts, is crucial. Court interpreters must understand not only the words, but also the context and intent behind the statements to ensure an accurate translation.

Interpreting during cross-examination also requires a high level of concentration and resilience. Court interpreters are under a great deal of pressure as they must simultaneously focus their attention on the questions and answers of the lawyers and witnesses during consecutive interpreting. The ability to remain calm under stress while interpreting accurately without missing important details is crucial.

Another hurdle is dealing with the different speaking styles and speeds of the parties involved. Lawyers may speak quickly and use complex sentences, while witnesses may speak more slowly and awkwardly. Court interpreters must be able to adapt quickly to these different speech patterns and still provide a clear and understandable translation.

As cross-examination is not part of the Swiss legal system, court interpreters prepare intensively for such assignments. Their role is crucial in ensuring communication and understanding between the parties and thus contributing to the fair and efficient conduct of the arbitration.

You’ve come to the right place for top-quality court interpreting, even for challenging cross-examinations. Don’t hesitate to contact us for court interpreting assignments – we specialise in court interpreting and have been serving numerous Swiss law firms and legal clients for many years.

Take the next step toward accurate and reliable interpretation – contact us today to ensure your legal proceedings run seamlessly.

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