Phil Quin apologises for calling Green MP Golriz Ghahraman a 'genocide denier'

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Golriz Ghahraman speaks on allegations around her time spent as a UN defence lawyer, defending Rwandan genocide accused.

A former Labour staffer has apologised for calling Green MP Golriz Ghahraman a "genocide denier".

Phil Quin accused Ghahraman of being a genocide denier on Twitter, after discovering she had worked on the defence team for those accused of inciting genocide in Rwanda, during her time as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations.

The new Green MP spent time both in defence and prosecution for the UN on a number of high-profile human rights trials.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman it's "incredibly important" even genocide-accused have a sound defence.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman it's "incredibly important" even genocide-accused have a sound defence.

Quin, who has spent a number of years working in Rwanda, said Ghahraman chose to be on the defence team and published an article denying the genocide took place. 

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However, she rejected both claims, saying they were "complete untruths".Ghahraman said she'd only ever held an official role with the UN, paid or otherwise. 

Golriz Ghahraman rejected Quin's original claims, saying they were "complete untruths".
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Golriz Ghahraman rejected Quin's original claims, saying they were "complete untruths".

The discussion around the role Ghahraman played during her time at the UN, and whether she and the Green Party had been transparent about this, started on Monday.

Referring to an article Ghahraman contributed to about the 1994 shooting down of the plane of then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, which triggered that country's genocide, Quin tweeted: "She's a straightforward genocide denier."

He also said: "The entire ICTR defense strategy was predicated on genocide denial".

Then on Wednesday evening, Quin denied calling Ghahraman a genocide denier: "I've never said @golrizghahraman is a genocide denier but she volunteered to work for a defence whose strategy was to cast doubt on the veracity of the historical record, i.e. revisionism — part and parcel of denial. If she now rejects that theory, she could say so."

Less than half an hour later, Quin backtracked, admitting he had called the Green MP a genocide denier. He then apologised.

"It was pointed out correctly that I did use the term genocide denier in a flurry of excitement upon discovering a paper that hypothesized troubling theories about the genesis of the genocide.

"I should not have used that term w/o further evidence & I apologize to @golrizghahraman," he said.

Some of the earlier tweets accusing Ghahraman of genocide denial appear to have been deleted.

Following Quin's attack, questions were raised about how much voters knew about Ghahraman's work at the UN.

Her profile on the Green Party website said: "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."

Ghahraman said she did not think she, or the party, had misled voters, and she was not ashamed of the work she had done.

She said it was "incredibly important" even genocide-accused had a sound defence. 

In the Rwandan example, the nation had been marred by "generations of prejudice and hate" feeding into outbursts of violence and "this was the worst case of it in 1994".

"But if you leave it, or you perpetrate victor's justice then you leave this legacy of groups blaming each other as groups and people coming around to a vendetta generations later," she said.

A fair trial was part of the process to ensure communities felt justice had been served, and that they hold trust in institutions again. 

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