Constitutional and judicial language protection in multilingual states : a brief overview of South Africa and Belgium
Faculty of Law
Erasmus law review
, p. 2011-2232
University of Antwerp
The purpose of this contribution is to provide a very modest comparison of judicial language protection in South Africa and in Belgium. First of all, the authors sketch briefly the historical context and the constitutional status of languages in both countries. It is difficult to argue that one always has a right to use his or her own language. However, the use of language has clear links to constitutional rights such as the right to a fair trial. The authors then consider the rules on the use of languages in court generally and in criminal proceedings particularly. Belgium has strict rules on the use of language, and these rules are based on strong principles of territoriality and monolingualism. South Africa, on the other hand, has 11 official languages, not linked to territories, but in practice these languages do not all enjoy the same protection. The pragmatic approach by the South African courts is indicated with reference to the case law.