New Zealand Law Society defends Golriz Ghahraman

The New Zealand Law Society has defended Green MP Golriz Ghahraman against the suggestion that she shouldn't have defended those charged with war crimes.

"Any criticism of lawyers for defending people charged with heinous crimes is not acceptable," says Law Society president Kathryn Beck.

Ms Ghahraman both defended and prosecuted war criminals, while working for the United Nations.

She has rejected criticism that she hadn't been open about this work, insisting it was "necessary, especially if you believe in human rights".

Law Society criminal law committee convenor Steven Bonnar QC says people often misunderstand the role of a lawyer.

"Our law requires lawyers to uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand," he says.

"The general rule is that lawyers must be available to act for the public and must not, without good cause, refuse to accept instructions from any client or prospective client for services within that lawyer's fields of practice."

Mr Bonnar says the rules of conduct for lawyers require that they protect their clients from being convicted as far as possible.

"The defence lawyer is required to put the prosecution to proof in obtaining a conviction, regardless of any personal belief or opinion of the lawyer as to the client's guilt or innocence," he says.

"It is not the role of the lawyer to determine a client's guilt or innocence - that is the role of the tribunal, judge or jury hearing the case," he says.

Ms Gharaman says she has been completely open about her work, including in interviews before the election, in speeches at various law schools and in her CV, which is posted to her LinkedIn profile.

After discovering that her profile on the Green Party website failed to explicitly mention her work as part of the defence teams, she says it was changed immediately.