Golriz Ghahraman scrutiny and support continues

The Golriz Ghahraman  attacks and defences continued yesterday.

Andrew Geddis: Did Golriz Ghahraman do anything wrong?

The job of an international human rights lawyer isn’t always battling for the angels. Sometimes it involves having to look out for the interests of devils, as Golriz Ghahraman did.

Defending nasty individuals is just a part of what international human rights lawyers do. Consider the example of probably the world’s most famous such lawyer, Amal Alamuddin (now Clooney).

For me, this serving a greater project also distinguishes Ghahraman from MPs whose previous jobs involved taking on more morally questionable duties. Ghahraman played a necessary (if hard) role in an internationally established institution designed to resolve in an open and legitimate fashion individual guilt for horrible actions (thus showing that we collectively are better that those we condemn through it).

…we need to keep this in context. I’m sure that the various other lawyers sitting in Parliament may have done work for past clients that they probably would rather wasn’t waved in front of the public. That which is legal, and indeed completely ethical, can still be politically troublesome. And political parties aren’t exactly in the business of highlighting the politically troublesome aspects of their candidate’s past.

Perhaps, then, Ghahraman’s complete story can best help to remind us that stories with the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other generally belong in books or on movie screens. In real life, and certainly in the practice of international human rights law, the narrative is (as they say) a bit more problematic. It shouldn’t really be a shock to us that this is so.


Phil Quin: Green MP Golriz Ghahraman pictured smiling in photograph alongside Rwandan convicted for inciting genocide

It rightly horrifies Rwandans that a New Zealand politician didn’t simply work for war criminals, but went out of her way to do so as a volunteer.

Not, mind you, volunteering to build homes for widows and orphans. Not working with Rwandan law firms to help build capacity in human rights law. Not spending one moment in the presence of the families whose loved ones were slaughtered at the behest of her clients.

Instead, she chose to use her time as a volunteer in Africa defending some of the worst criminals of the latter part of last century.

A free agent, Golriz Ghahraman is entitled to make that choice, just as we are entitled to assess her suitability for public office as a result.

The UN spent $2 billion during the life of the tribunal. They had 200 accredited lawyers. By the end, there were only 61 convictions – or $32 million a pop.

The notion that the ICTR was under-resourced, as Ghahraman claimed in the NZ Herald yesterday, is laughable.

Weka at The Standard: Thank-you Golriz

ffs NZ, get a grip. Then have a think about fairness and what kind of society we want.

I generally like being a New Zealander, but fuck we’re an embarrassment sometimes. In the last 24 hours a national debate has broken out about whether war criminals on trial should have legal representation. Micky has covered the basics of the beat up story here.  Yes, NZ is still wondering about how fairness and legality works.

Except that’s not what’s really going on. Oh look, Whale Oil, Kiwiblog and parts of the MSM all doing hatchet jobs on a Green MP’s career. Wonder how that happened. I guess it’s time for the Greens to be on the receiving end of Dirty Politics, although what’s really strange is that none of this is news.

To get all this out in the open so soon may help Ghahraman’s political career, if she manages to weather the storm. She should learn a lot from it. Some of it is fair questioning, some of it is dirty and low, but far better now than in the middle of an election campaign.


Another post from Andrew Geddis: Contra Quin: Ghahraman still did nothing wrong

Phil Quin says Golriz Ghahraman’s time working for defendants in Rwandan war crimes trials deserves our condemnation. I don’t think he’s established the basis for such a claim.

The issue of Green MP Golriz Ghahraman’s past actions on international criminal tribunals is a pretty weird one. There doesn’t appear to be any dispute about what she did. The argument is all about what those actions mean and how we should judge them.

To then thoroughly damn a 25-year-old Ghahraman for helping to write an academic paper, largely because of the findings of a report that came out four years later, seems remarkably churlish. The paper may be bad or ill-founded (although having looked at its subsequent citations, no-one else seems to have had a problem with it before now). But some sort of apology for genocide or giver of comfort to those who committed it? I think not.

So with all due respect to Quin’s experience in Rwanda and knowledge of the ground there, I just don’t think he’s accurately represented what Ghahraman’s place at the ICTR involved, nor do I think his criticism of a paper she helped co-write is really fair.

Geddis in a comment on that post:

However, in fairness to Quin, Rwanda clearly is a subject he cares deeply and passionately about, and has walked the hard road on. So I’m prepared to accept that he’s driven by a genuine sense of outrage at what occured there. I just think he’s misdirected that outrage in Ghahraman’s case and it’s caused him to misunderstand just what she did, as well as coloured his views of what she has written. Sometimes being too close to a subject causes you to lose perspective.

‘Europe’s worst mass murders since Holocaust’

Radovan Karadzic has been found guilty of some of the worst atrocities since World War II, responsible for the genocide of something like 100,000 people.

One News reports: Bosnian-Serb leader responsible for ‘Europe’s worst mass murders since Holocaust’ gets 40 years behind bars

Forty years is as good as a life sentence for the 70 year old Serb. Good, it’s hard to see any punishment severe enough for him.

A UN court convicted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic of genocide and nine other charges overnight.

The UN court found Karadzic guilty of genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which 8000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered.

It was Europe’s worst mass murder since the Holocaust.

Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon said Karadzic was the only person in the Bosnian Serb leadership with the power to stop the genocide.

Judge Kwon said he instead gave an order for prisoners to be transported from one location to another to be killed.

In a carefully planned operation, Serb forces transported Muslim men to sites around the Srebrenica enclave in eastern Bosnia and gunned them down before dumping their bodies into mass graves.

Kwon said Karadzic and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic, wanted “every able-bodied Bosnian Muslim male from Srebrenica to be killed.”

Karadzic was also held criminally responsible for murder.

It is appalling what some people do to other human beings, in this case to people from his own country that he as leader had responsibility for.

History has proven that one of the biggest dangers is from within one’s own country, as in Yugoslavia, Germany, China, Rwanda, Cambodia/Kampuchea.

In this case justice has resulted in prison for the rest of one person’s life, but twenty years after 100,000 people lost their lives in part at least because of him.