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Turkey: Defendants to Be Permitted to Use Mother Tongue in Court Statements

(Jan. 25, 2013) The Grand National Assembly (Turkey’s parliament) adopted a law on January 23, 2013, which, among other stipulations, allows suspects to use their native languages in court when giving defense statements. The controversial provision, which created a brawl among legislators of different parties, will bring to an end a long campaign by Kurdish […]

Sweden: Finnish Language Rights Extended

(Jan. 11, 2013) Finnish speakers in eight additional districts in <?Sweden will have the option of using their native language in retirement homes and pre-schools, following the adoption of a proposal on the subject by Swedish legislators late last month. The action came two years after Sweden included Finnish as one of the four minority […]

Ukraine: Minority Languages May Become Official in Parts of the Country

(Aug. 13, 2012) On August 8, 2012, the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, signed into law the Principles of State Language Policy Act adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament on July 3. (Yanukovich Signed into Law the Act on Status of Russian in Ukraine [in Russian], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (Aug. 8, 2012).) The Act was initiated by […]

Latvia: Constitutional Amendment on Russian Language Proposed

(Jan. 6, 2012) On January 3, 2012, the Central Election Commission of Latvia announced that a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would give the Russian language the status of a second official language in the country would be held on February 18, 2012. This decision followed the adoption of a Saeima (the Latvian legislature) […]

Slovak Republic: Venice Commission Recommends Further Amendment of Language Law

(Nov. 12, 2010) The Slovak Republic enacted a State Language Law that became effective on September 1, 2009. The Law limited the public use of languages of minority peoples in the country, imposed fines on those who use minority languages when they “should not be used,” and held agreements concluded in languages other than Slovak […]

Turkey: Sentences Lengthened for Use of Kurdish

(Oct. 27, 2010) It was reported on October 22, 2010, that a court in Turkey had penalized three Kurdish-speaking defendants for attempting to use their own language during their trial. A judgment was announced without allowing the defense a chance to speak, and an often applied “good conduct” abatement of punishment was disallowed. The resulting […]

Colombia: Recognition of Aboriginal Languages

(Sept. 1, 2010) On January 25, 2010, Colombia adopted Law 1381, which develops and regulates certain provisions of the Political Constitution and of Law 21 of 1991, which had approved Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. Law 1381 regulates the recognition, promotion, protection, use, preservation, and […]

Switzerland: New Law Encourages Multilingual Culture

(Jan. 19, 2010) On January 1, 2010, a new Swiss law went into effect that aims at preserving the multilingual culture of Switzerland. (Bundesgesetz über die Landessprachen und die Verständigung zwischen den Sprachgemeinschaften (Federal Act on the National Languages), Oct. 5, 2001, Amtliche Sammlung des Bundesrechts 2007, 6605 available at The new Act implements […]

Georgia: Laws Translated into Minority Languages

(Jan. 23, 2009) On January 5, 2009, the Government of Georgia launched the publication of the nation's Constitution and other legislative acts in the Azerbaijani language. Ethnic Azerbaijanis are the largest minority group in Georgia and constitute about seven percent of the country's population of 4.6 million. They reside mainly in Kvemo Kartli Province, where […]

Armenia: Laws Will Be Passed in Foreign Languages

(Dec. 15, 2008) On December 2, 2008, the Armenian Parliament approved amendments to the Law on Legal Acts that obligate the government to draft, and the legislature to pass, legal acts on aviation and nuclear energy in foreign languages. The specific foreign languages are not listed in the amended Act but will depend on the […]