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All my publications can be accessed at ResearchGate.

More about my background at this Brandeis University bio.


Leigh Swigart

Director of Programs in International Justice and Society
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA                                                                                                                                                    
Leigh SwigartI have worked for many years in the field of international justice but was originally trained as a linguistic and cultural anthropologist. My earlier research involved African sociolinguistics and urban language use. After many years of organizing the Brandeis Institute for International Judges and other international law programs, I decided to pursue a question that emerged often during discussions among judges from a wide array of international courts and tribunals: how do such institutions handle the challenges of linguistic, and by extrapolation, cultural diversity that inevitably arise in their work?

Over the past several years, I have turned my attention to the use of African languages in contemporary processes of international criminal justice. My current project, "Global Court, Local Languages: How the International Criminal Court Pursues Multilingual Justice," uses an ethnographic approach to examine how the ICC accommodates the language needs of both its staff and its constituents, which include victims, populations affected by crimes, and the international community more generally. My study looks at the role and status of the Court’s working languages – English and French – as well as its almost three dozen situation languages. The study seeks to elucidate the whole constellation of challenges, considerations, and complexities associated with multilingualism and cultural difference at the ICC. The ultimate aim of the study is to shed light on critical aspects of the work of one of the most important institutions of the early 21st century.

Areas of interest: international justice, criminal procedures, interpretation, translation, Africa

Blog posts (and related articles) on language, culture and justice:

"Now You See It, Now You Don't: Culture at the International Criminal Court" (19 August 2019), with link to full text article (a chapter published in Intersections of Law and Culture at the International Criminal Court, Julie Fraser and Brianne McGonigle Leyh, Eds., Edward Elgar, 2020).

"iCourts Seminar Examines the Role of Language in International Courts" (9 July 2018).

"How Are Multilingual Challenges Addressed at the ICC?" (3 January 2018), with link to full text article ("Unseen and Unsung: ICC Language Services and their Impact on Institutional Legitimacy," a chapter published in Legitimacy of Unseen Actors in International Adjudication, Freya Baetens, Ed., Cambridge University Press, 2019).

"Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in International Criminal Justice: Toward Bridging the Divide" (27 October 2016), with link to full text article (The University of the Pacific Law Review, Vol. 48, 2017).

"The Place of African Languages in International Criminal Justice: Meeting Challenges and Developing Strategies" (21 September 2015), with link to full text article (a chapter entitled "The Place of African Languages in International Criminal Justice: the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Beyond," published in Promoting Accountability under International Law for Gross Human Rights Violations in Africa: Essays in Honour of Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow. Charles Chernor Jalloh and Alhagi B.M. Marong, Eds., Brill Nijhoff, 2015). 

Other relevant publications:

"International Justice in Africa: Defining Authority and Localizing the Global," iCourts Working Paper Series, 2017, Volume 86.

"The 'National Judge': Some Reflections on Diversity in International Courts and Tribunals," Pacific Law Journal, Volume (1):223-242, January 2010.

The International Judge: an Introduction to the Men and Women Who Make the World's Decisions, with co-authors Cesare P.R. Romano and Daniel Terris (Oxford University Press), 2007. 

Swigart with ICC language staff

Leigh with ICC language services staff at
the 2018 Jurilinguistics conference in Seville