Language as a facilitator of the right to a fair trial in Kenya

Author Catherine S. Namakula

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: LLB (Makerere) PGDLP (LDC) LLM (Nottingham) PhD (Wits), Professor of Human Rights and Criminal Justice, Global Humanistic University, Curaçao & Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Fort Hare
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 33 Issue 2, p. 382 – 401


The language in which a criminal case is conducted may significantly influence the verdict, and impact on the right to a fair trial if the accused does not properly understand the language of the court. The courts of Kenya, therefore, tolerate no compromise of the constitutional imperative that the person on trial must understand the language used in the proceedings. This paper examines the language-based requirements of fair trial as revealed by the jurisprudence on core trial processes such as judicial interpreting, plea taking, and confessions. A competent court safeguards a fair trial by ensuring that trial participants express themselves in the language(s) of their ability. This may require the provision of effective interpretative assistance. There is need to professionalise judicial interpreting and to foster the scientific and legal development of local languages in Kenya.