Urge the UN to protect translators and interpreters worldwide
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The world cannot function without translators and interpreters: We help the public stay informed by interpreting for journalists; we keep everyone safe by translating terrorism chatter pulled from the airwaves; we assist with delivering humanitarian aid to those in need; we act as language bridges for armed forces; we ensure due process and justice in courts and tribunals; we facilitate truth and reconciliation proceedings; we keep peace negotiations going in various international forums. And we transcend conflict by translating culture to reach people everywhere.
But we are at risk. Linguists working for the military are kidnapped, tortured and beheaded as traitors; prison camp translators are prosecuted as spies; court interpreters receive death threats; fixers are persecuted for doing their job; and literary translators are incarcerated for content. The simple practice of our profession makes thousands of us vulnerable to loss of life, limb and liberty.
Currently, translators and interpreters are not specifically protected by international legislation. As a professional category, we fall through the cracks in the Geneva Conventions and, unlike journalists, we are not covered by a resolution. This must change. A UN Resolution would be a first step toward ensuring our protection under international law, and it would mandate member states to prosecute crimes perpetrated against us.
Please sign this petition and let the UN know that the time to protect translators and interpreters is now!
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres
- UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák
- MEMBERS OF THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL
Request for a Resolution to Protect Translators/Interpreters in Conflict Situations
I am deeply concerned about the pressing need to protect civilian translators and interpreters in high-risk settings. As recent conflicts have painfully demonstrated, linguists are being injured and killed by the thousands. They have become priority targets of state and non-state actors alike, who view them as traitors and abduct, torture and murder them with impunity.
Protecting this vulnerable population is of the utmost importance. Translators and interpreters are indispensable to international operations of all kinds; by bridging language gaps and fostering communication, they provide crucial support not only during active hostilities but also in post-conflict reconstruction.
Therefore, I am joining the global community of language professionals in urging the UN Security Council to issue a Resolution to Protect Civilian Translators/Interpreters in Conflict Situations. The status quo must not continue; we hope the United Nations will recognize the extreme gravity of the situation and take swift action.
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