Legal Translation of Homeland Security Documents
Legal translations of homeland security documents play an important role today. Following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, family members of the victims filed a suit against Sudan on the basis that it was harboring members of al Qaeda. The grounds for the suit came from an amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). According to the act, citizens can sue foreign nations within a US court for personal injury or death caused by terrorist acts associated with that state.
At its core, FSIA waives the protection of sovereign immunity whenever a state
sponsors – directly or indirectly – terrorism.
Specifically, sovereign immunity can be waived if it is shown that:
- An official, employee or agent of that state engages in such an act as torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage or hostage taking.
- If an official, employee or agent provides material support or resources to a person or group that does the same.
It is the later – the provide exception – that creates the most challenge as the plaintiff must bring forth evidence demonstrating that a state provided material support or resources that resulted in the act of terrorism. This becomes all the more complicated when these resources are found in documentary evidence – including papers, emails, interviews, bank transactions and contracts – all written in a foreign language. Thus, when bringing a suit against state sponsors of terrorism, having a foreign language translation of all the evidence is an essential step to creating the framework for the suit.