Now here’s a simple question for you all. If a lawyer expressed views such as; torture is ok as a form of interrogation in some circumstances; it’s ok for admissions obtained by inducements or force to be allowed as evidence to convict defendants; and that “rights have no foundation”, then you probably wouldn’t describe that person as a “human rights lawyer”.

Human rights lawyers stand up for the universality of fundamental freedoms and rights. They never sanction the use of torture and they believe that in criminal trials the accused has rights which are so fundamental, they should be guarded zealously.

Not so Mirko Bagaric, currently in Greece trying to keep Fat Tony Mokbel from the hands of the Australian authorities who want to extradite him to Australia. Bagaric is being described in the media as a human rights lawyer – in fact he uses the tag himself. Talk about stretching a definition beyond the bounds of credibility.

Formerly an obscure academic at Deakin University in Victoria, Bagaric shot to fame, or infamy, when he co-authored an article in 2005 which defended the use of torture in circumstances where lives are at risk. You can even kill someone when you torture them, says Bagaric.

From then, Bagaric became a darling of the media. Bagaric is a regular contributor to the Herald-Sun, and even The Age newspaper. He’s also been published in Crikey several times. Bagaric is the man for the media trot out if they want someone to oppose a bill of rights, want to see mandatory minimum sentences introduced and beat up individuals and groups that dare to stand up for human rights in these times when the war on terror is eroding our democracy.

But whatever Bagaric is, it’s grossly inaccurate to describe him as a human rights lawyer. He is simply a controversialist who delights in contrariness.

And why is he acting for Mr Mokbel? A well informed legal source close to the Mokbel saga told Crikey yesterday that Mokbel’s family in Melbourne was impressed by an article Bagaric wrote recently and thought he’s just the man to save Tony! One wonders if the Mokbel family is aware of Mr Bagaric’s views on torture.