Golriz Ghahraman denies work defending war criminals was 'hidden'

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman says she's been the victim of an attack for her work as a defence lawyer at war crime tribunals. She worked on defence teams in Rwanda and at The Hague.

Former Labour staffer Phil Quin, who has lived and worked in Rwanda, has sent a series of tweets saying Ms Ghahraman should resign, claiming she is a genocide denier.

Ms Ghahraman says that accusation is "offensive" and "gross".

Ms Ghahraman told Newshub she did a three-month internship on the defence team for the trial of political leader Joseph Nzirorera in Rwanda, who died before he could be convicted of genocide. She said she also worked on the appeals case for Simon Bikindi, who was convicted of using songs to incite the 1994 genocide. 

Ms Ghahraman also worked on the pre-trial of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadžić, who represented himself and was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Ms Ghahraman's profile on the Green Party website fails to explicitly mention her work as part of the defence teams.

It reads: "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."

"It was surprising for me that there was this feeling that it was hidden," Ms Ghahraman told Newshub, but said she doesn't think the sentence is misleading.

"I accept that is vague, [but] I don't think it's misleading at all, because as anyone who has worked in the justice system would tell you, we're all putting on trial."

"We say, 'We're not going to sink to your level. We're not going to be tyrants. This process is going to be transparent and fair.'"

But Mr Quin says she should not be allowed in Parliament. "Call me old fashioned, but I think *volunteering* as a 'life changing experience' to defend mass murderers (who had the priciest lawyers in the business) should disqualify one from becoming a member of the NZ Parliament," he tweeted.

Ms Ghahraman says the trials are about finding out who did what and to what extent.

"We all came together as people who all wanted genocide to be a crime and to be treated like a crime, so you have a criminal trial," she said.

"You want that community to go back to a system of human rights, rather than to go forward and keep having war after war."

Ms Ghahraman says the men accused of war crimes were "disarmingly ordinary."

"Like, Hannah Arendt [said], the banality of evil."

"You don't get the feeling when you meet them that this is a murderer. It's really hard to consolidate that with what's happened, which is evil."

"It's very hard to work on a defence team, but it's completely necessary and it's necessary, especially if you believe in human rights."