Ghahraman defended not prosecuted the genociders in Rwanda

Paul Little reports at the Herald an interview with Green MP :

In 2008 I’d been working in New Zealand as a junior barrister for two and a half years. The next logical step would have been to go out on my own, but I got accepted to do a masters degree at Oxford. While I was waiting to fly to England, I met a defence lawyer working for the Tribunal. He said: “You should come over, we need a lawyer at the coalface.” I’d gone into law in the first place to do human rights law.

I spent about three months as an intern then went to The Hague on a consultancy at the Yugoslavia Tribunal, then was offered a job as a lawyer for the Rwanda Tribunal.

So she was recruited by a defence lawyer at the Rwanda Tribunal? So did she prosecute the genociders or defend them?

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.

So she wasn’t prosecuting the war criminals in Rwanda, but defending them. And complains the UN didn’t give them enough resources to defend them better! The total cost of the trials was in fact around $1 billion!

Now I had no idea before reading this article that her work in Rwanda was defending the war criminals, not prosecuting them. I doubt anyone else knew either. Let’s look at what her Green Party CV says:

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.

Now 99% of people who read that would think she was working at prosecuting the abusers, not defending them.

Look at this Guardian article from a few weeks ago:

It was in this South Pacific melting pot, says Ghahraman, that she acquired the confidence to study human rights law at Oxford University, and, later, to stand up in court representing the UN in tribunals prosecuting some of the world’s worst war criminals, including perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

Now again 99% of people reading this would assume she was prosecuting in Rwanda. But she was actually defending the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

Former Labour staffer Phil Quin has actually worked in Rwanda with the survivors of the genocide there. He is highly unimpressed:

There is nothing wrong with being a defence lawyer – even for war criminals. As Quin, says everyone is entitled to a defence. A great mate of mine is a defence lawyer. But the issue here is the way the Greens have selectively published material that makes it looks like she was prosecuting, not defending.

She did later go on to prosecute in Cambodia, and again there is nothing wrong with having started as a defence lawyer so you could gain experience to become a prosecutor.  But this is not the story that we were told.

Also she was not assigned as a lawyer to defend the Rwanda war criminals. She was a volunteer as Quin again :

Quin also highlights one of the persons she defended was Joseph Nziorera.

Nzirorera was considered one of the main initiators of the Rwandan genocide.

Now again a legal system needs prosecutors and defenders. The issue for me isn’t that she worked as a defence lawyer for war criminals, but that all the promotional material to date has given the impression she was prosecuting in Rwanda, not defending. Sure if you look all the way down the Linked In profile, you see the details. So it isn’t that she personally has made a false statement about her work. It is that the narrative built around her has been incomplete and misleading. The Guardian article is a great example of that – makes you think she was a prosecutor in Rwanda. The Greens website states her work in Africa was putting on trial world leaders – highly misleading.

Her own maiden speech glosses over her work in Rwanda:

It was living in Africa working on genocide trials where I then learned how prejudice turns to atrocity. Politicians scapegoating groups, as a group, for any social ills, dehumanising language in the media, used for political gain-
Every time I see that I think: That’s how is how it starts.

I saw that at the Rwanda Tribunal, at The Hague and when I prosecuted the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Very clever. It doesn’t state she prosecuted in Rwanda but you clearly gain that impression as she lumps it in with prosecuting in Cambodia.

Now imagine this isn’t a Green MP. Imagine this is a National MP who had defended war criminals and genociders in Rwanda. Do you think Labour and Green MPs would say “Well someone has to do it, and it was good work experience, so that’s fine”. Or would they be condemning them at every turn?

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