Alexandra Tomić

Interview conducted 25 May 2015 in The Hague, Netherlands, by David P. Briand and Leigh Swigart.

alexandra tomic gesturingBackground

Interview Content

In this interview, Alexandra Tomić reminisces about life in England at beginning of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia; her work as an interpreter for Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian refugees in the Netherlands; application to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to work in translation after hearing about the tribunal on early-morning radio; her first assignment and early translation work at the ICTY; her first mission doing English/French interpretation; missions to Zagreb and Sarajevo after the Dayton Peace Accords; difficulties as a Serbian during interpretation sessions; interpretation of witness interviews and sensitivity issues that arose; her first time in the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) booth during courtroom arguments; interpretation for defense counsel at the ICTY detention center and contact with the accused; her decision to leave the ICTY for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the challenge of building a new position; and adjustments to the ICC translation section due to ICTY experiences.

She discusses the classification of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian as a single language; attempts by the tribunal to contact witnesses and to prosecute defendants in a balanced way; the structure of investigation and interpretation teams for witness interviews; mental preparation for and the toll of witness interviews; differences among the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian languages and the difficulties of proofreading documents in BCS; the easier and more difficult aspects of interpretation; and the challenges of translating and interpreting a variety of languages at ICC.

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Biographical Information

Alexandra Tomić is currently the chief of the Language Services Section (previously the Court Interpretation and Translation Section) at the International Criminal Court, which she joined in 2003. Prior to establishing the language services of the ICC from scratch, Alexandra worked as a translator and interpreter at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 1994 to 2003.

As an interpreter, she went on many missions to the former Yugoslavia and worked for three years exclusively as part of teams investigating war crimes. Having undergone in-house training for simultaneous interpretation, Tomić also worked in the English booth interpreting from Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and French into English.

She holds a bachelor's degree in French and English from Belgrade University and a master's in military studies from American Military University. She is currently preparing a PhD in military history at Leiden University.