Written By: - Date published: 11:40 am, November 28th, 2017 - 85 comments
Categories: Africa, corruption, Deep stuff, International, Politics, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, war, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: Golriz Ghahraman, phil quin
It is going to be a long three years if the events of the past 24 hours are anything to go by. The right have leapt into shock horror mode and proclaimed that SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT IN VERY LOUD VOICES because former Criminal lawyer and current Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has in the past acted for VERY BAD PEOPLE. And may have volunteered to help lawyers involved in the Rwanda Law Crimes Court to get experience in the field of human rights.
And the source of this scoop? Something Golriz said herself. In the Herald yesterday she was quoted as saying:
And even with the UN, defence lawyers didn’t have as many resources as the other side. To me it’s important to have that fair process. No matter how guilty someone looks, guilt needs to be established. But the defence team didn’t get paper for the photocopiers — it was like even the UN didn’t really believe in it.
From back here, having worked in court, I know the defence gets about half the resources of the prosecution. That’s really frightening — there’s definitely demographics involved.
Then in lept former Labour staffer Phil Quin with these pearls of wisdom:
Actually, let's cut to the chase,.
— Phil Quin (@philquin) November 26, 2017
Genocide denial is pernicious & rarely expressed openly. It reveals itself in codes and conspiracies, but mostly in muddying waters to obscure what really happened in the hope we throw up our hands and declare both sides equally culpable, effectively exonerating perpetrators.
— Phil Quin (@philquin) November 27, 2017
She has to resign or the @NZGreens will be the party of genocide denial.
— Phil Quin (@philquin) November 27, 2017
It is such a strange assertion, that lawyers acting for bad people must somehow believe everything that the bad people believe in.
There are plenty of others to match this level of breathless indignation. The phrase “pile in” springs immediately to mind.
Although some of the responses were appropriate:
Whats up with the pearl clutching re @golrizghahraman ? I was a lawyer, I did some criminal defense and represented people who did horrible things. That's the legal system, everyone has the right to a defense. What's the issue??
— Shane Henderson (@henderception) November 27, 2017
— Jeremy Greenbrook-Held (@JGreenbrookHeld) November 27, 2017
the attempt of a political assassination of @golrizghahraman is nauseating. Everyone, *everyone* deserves counsel during any legal stages. To claim otherwise is undemocratic and against natural justice. I am not surprised that critics of Golriz are against both.
— Joshua James (@teJoshuaJames) November 27, 2017
Today on Twitter, a white guy lied about a woman of colour denying the Rwandan genocide, and when ppl pointed out he was lying he said "Listen to Rwandans!"… pointing to ppl responding TO HIS LIE
— Stephanie Rodgers 🌹 (@bootstheory) November 27, 2017
Andrew Geddes has a typically more nuanced take on the issue:
There’s a popular narrative around human rights. In this story, there is the good side and the bad side. The good side are those who stand up and fight for the rights of the oppressed. The bad side are those who do the oppressing.
It is the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. William Wallace facing down the English invaders. Smith in the bush, resisting Volkner’s neo-fascist enforcers.
One problem with this narrative is that the actual way human rights issues are dealt with in international legal fora involves a lot less heroic action and a lot more paperwork. That fact is not accidental. The basic aim of the international human rights project is to create binding standards of behaviour that then can be enforced through institutions which command the respect and voluntary obedience of all state actors.
In a nutshell, it tries through sheer dint of process and protocol to turn the fierce moral urgency of “you should respect rights” into “you will respect rights”. The Death Star isn’t really destroyed by two proton torpedoes; it’s slowly transformed into the Nice Star by pan-galactic accords requiring minimal standards of respectful treatment for the diverse stellar civilisations as developed by inter-species committees and overseen through quasi-judicial processes for resolving disputes over the application of those standards.
I think it’s this gap between what we imagine when we hear “international human rights lawyer” and what that job actually entails that led to Golriz Ghahraman hitting the interweb yesterday. For those of you who missed it, there was some shock—shock!—expressed at the news that her past work experience involved spending some time on the defence team for an individual facing war crimes charges in Rwanda.
The charges against her rely on her CV on the Green party website which contains this passage:
Her studies at Oxford, and work as a lawyer for the United Nations and in New Zealand, have focused on enforcing human rights and holding governments to account. Golriz has lived and worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia putting on trial world leaders for abusing their power, and restoring communities after war and human rights atrocities, particularly empowering women engaged in peace and justice initiatives.
The two comments I would have about this is that it is clearly written by a PR person and not by Golriz herself. No lawyer would use this sort of language! And as Geddis states enforcing human rights means contributing to the justice system and dealing with alleged war criminals in a properly functioning justice system is an important aspect of this. Besides Golriz clearly did a lot of prosecutorial work.
The overwhelming feeling I get of this is one big beatup fostered by a dissident former Labour staffer and the usual forces on the right relying on a short slightly sloppily drafted piece of PR. Looks like the forces of dirty politics are on the rise again.
So she was hiding her background was she?
To clear things up: I interviewed @golrizghahraman about six weeks before the election, we openly discussed her time in Rwanda as a defence intern. It (like much of her story) didn't make my final story due to space. https://t.co/CN86MRHxGb
— Kirsty Johnston (@kirsty_johnston) November 27, 2017