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HFHR writes to Prime Minister about interpreter summoned for questioning

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has sent a letter of intervention to the Prime Minister, inquiring about a case of an interpreter summoned for an interview by the prosecution service. Law enforcement authorities want to interview the interpreter about her translation of a conversation between then-Polish Prime Ministers of Poland and Russia, Donald Tusk and Vladimir Putin, which took place in the evening of 10 April 2010.

It will be possible to obtain the interpreter’s testimony if she is exempted from the obligation of state secrecy by the incumbent Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Pursuant to Article 179 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, persons obliged to maintain the confidentiality of information classified as “secret” or “top secret” may be questioned as to the circumstances to which this obligation extends only after their confidentiality obligation has been lifted by the competent superior body. A court or prosecutor may submit a request to the competent body of the central government administration to waive a witness’ obligation of secrecy. However, it should be emphasized that it is the government administration bodies that have a final say about what is or is not classified information.

In its letter, the HFHR indicates that the case at hand may undermine trust in the interpreting profession and discourage members of the public from using interpreters’ services. Given the sensitivity of the conversations and interpreters’ access to pre-meeting documents, interpreters’ professional secrecy obligation lies at the core of their profession. An interview of an interpreter should be a measure of last resort and should not be admissible in a situation where information can be obtained from other evidence.

The letter is available for reading here.

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