In the same way an ex-tobacco lobbyist wouldn't get away with describing themselves as a public health advocate, newly elected Green MP Golriz Ghahraman looks to have more than gilded the lily in selling herself as a 'human rights lawyer' in relation to her work defending war criminals.

Her former clients, Simon Bikindi – sentenced to 15 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for incitement of genocide in Rwanda – and the "Butcher of Bosnia" - responsible for the worst atrocities in post-war Europe - seem odd picks for the then 27-year-old to pause her career as an Auckland barrister to defend.

We're all for sticking up for the downtrodden, respecting the cab rank rule (all lawyers have had to defend the odd client they'd rather have avoided), but the rule does not apply to international engagements. Ghahraman was a volunteer – that raises questions about her character.

The most obvious: how hard would it have been to have come to New Zealand as a refugee escaping a war zone, only to get a law degree and use it to defend a man who sang songs on Rwandan radio with the primary goal of invoking genocidal frenzy?


And why the selfies, combined with the apparent downplaying of the role to both her colleagues and the public? Seizing the moral high ground on the basis of half-truths in order to advance her political career comes across as distasteful.

Ghahraman's perfectly reasonable talking point that, everyone has the right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, would have more sway had she not just been elected to Parliament for a party that argues exceptions to this should be made.

The Greens are on record arguing that in cases of alleged sexual violence or rape, the onus of proof should lie with the accused.

Would Ghahraman defend a Kiwi lawyer flying across the world to take smiling selfies with Kevin Spacey while they volunteer to defend him on sexual assault charges? Seems doubtful.

Even if one accepts Ghahraman's work as above board, this episode is much more significant than just a David Cunliffe-style embellishment of a CV. Wellington's Bowen Triangle is abuzz with chatter caused by the fact that the story has been peddled across the usual left/right divide from within the Green Party.

Not since the briefing wars between Act's Rodney Hide and Heather Roy has a small party had quite the internal fractions that the Greens now seem to. That episode led to the collapse of support for the party, which is has never recovered from.

It will be a real shame if this saga damages the prospects of talent that Green Party voters brought into Parliament.

Chloe Swarbrick is a millennial super-star, and decent. Julie Anne Genter is intellectually honest, hard working, and looks well placed to ascend to a leadership position within the party. Both could find themselves outside of Parliament in three years.

James Shaw now manages a caucus that continues to turn in on itself, having cleared out the old-guard who stood up to Metiria Turei's piousness over her confessed ripping off of the benefit system.

Unless he acts quickly, it won't be the post-Peters NZ First leadership race that will bring down the Government – it will be much closer to home.

* Jordan Williams is a Wellington-based lawyer, lobbyist and commentator.