Were you really Andrei Sakharov's lawyer?
Letter 05         25-Sep-2005

Andrei Sakharov
"He has twice been arrested for representing freedom fighters, as Nelson Mandela's lawyer in South Africa and as Andrei Sakharov's lawyer in the Soviet Union." Irwin Cotler official biography

  25 September 2005

The Honourable Irwin Cotler
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0H8

RE:  Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) File 20031527, Canadian Jewish Congress v Ukrainian Archive (CJC v UKAR).

ATTENTION:  The instant 25-Sep-2005 Lubomyr Prytulak letter to Irwin Cotler is copied to Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) Chief Commissioner Mary M Gusella, and to CHRC Investigations Manager John J Chamberlin, as a Prytulak submission to the CHRC in the matter of CJC v UKAR and in support of the Prytulak argument that CJC leadership not only present but historical is impostrous, such that its complaints to the CHRC need to be examined with a healthy measure of skepticism.

Irwin Cotler:

The Claim

In addition to claiming that you were Nelson Mandela's lawyer as discussed in my letter to you of 19-Sep-2005, Were you really Nelson Mandela's lawyer? you also claim to have been Andrei Sakharov's:

An international human rights lawyer, he served as Counsel to former prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union (Andrei Sakharov), South Africa (Nelson Mandela), Latin America (Jacobo Timmerman), and Asia (Muchtar Pakpahan).


In similar or identical wording relying on the expression "served as counsel to," you repeat this claim on several web pages, as for example at pm.gc.ca/~canada.justice.gc.ca/~www.liberal.ca/~www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/~,  and www.gatoronto.com/~ .

And your claim is widely echoed by others, as for example:

He has twice been arrested for representing freedom fighters, as Nelson Mandela's lawyer in South Africa and as Andrei Sakharov's lawyer in the Soviet Union.

Abbas Rana, "Terrorism must be seen as a Nuremberg crime," says MP Cotler, Hill Times, 08-Oct-2001,

As an human rights lawyer, Irwin Cotler rose to the defence of freedom fighters around the world: Nelson Mandela in his anti-apartheid struggle, Wole Soyinka during his exile from Nigeria and Andrei Sakharov in the Cold War.

Sonia Verma, Human rights expert defends security bill, Toronto Star Saturday Ontario Edition, November 10, 2001.

Cotler's credibility as a human rights expert was a trump card in the push to persuade a suspicious Canadian public of the merits of the controversial new Anti-Terrorism Act, C-36.  As a widely published law professor, now on leave from McGill, and onetime counsel to prisoners-of-conscience like Andrei Sakharov and Nelson Mandela, Cotler's backing gave the bill the boost it needed.

Tonda MacCharles, Cotler not afraid to speak his mind, Toronto Star, 13-Dec-2003 as posted at CJC in the news at  www.cjc.ca/~

Many saw it as a fitting post for the former human rights lawyer and McGill University constitutional law professor, respected internationally for his work on behalf of people such as Soviet dissidents Anatoly Scharansky and Andrei Sakharov, as well as South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

Ian MacLeod, Justice minister leaving his mark despite fractured Parliament, CanWest News Service, 20-Jun-2005 at  osgoode.yorku.ca/~

Throughout his career, Cotler has been involved in high-profile cases involving political prisoners and has acted as counsel for Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Nigerian playwright and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, and most recently Saad Edin Ibrahim, an Egyptian sociologist and democracy advocate whose criticism of Egypt's Mubarak government resulted in his incarceration.  Maclean's magazine has referred to Cotler as "Counsel for the Oppressed."

McGill News, Kudos to Cotler, Spring 2005  www.mcgill.ca/~

And what image is evoked by expressions like "served as counsel to," "represented freedom fighters," "as Andrei Sakharov's lawyer," "onetime counsel to prisoners-of-conscience like Andrei Sakharov," "work on behalf of people such as Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov," "acted as counsel for Andrei Sakharov," "Counsel for the Oppressed"?

The image that is evoked is something like the real-life Johnnie Cochran representing OJ Simpson a lawyer battling in a courtroom on behalf of his client, day after day, and if need be year after year, until the ultimate victory such as that which in fact both Mandela and Sakharov enjoyed.  The image of what it means to "be someone's lawyer" has become fixed in all minds through repetition in its many manifestations: it is Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, Ron Silver playing Alan Dershowitz in Reversal of Fortune, Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind, Gene Hackman in Class Action, John Travolta in A Civil Action, Maximilian Schell in Judgment at Nuremberg.

An Attempt at Corroboration

By way of verifying your claim to having been Andrei Sakharov's lawyer, and to test the accuracy of the image that your words evoke, I consulted the following ten books which are sorted below by surname of first author:

  1. Alexander BABYONYSHEV (Ed.), On Sakharov, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1982, 283 pages, no index, no photographs.

  2. George BAILEY, The Making of Andrei Sakharov, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, London, 1988, 453 pages, index, no photographs.

  3. Elena BONNER, Alone Together (translated from the Russian by Alexander Cook), Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1986, 270 pages, index, 30 photographs.

  4. Paul GOLDBERG, The Final Act: The Dramatic, Revealing Story of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, William Morrow, New York, 1988, 320 pages, index, 20 photographs.

  5. Richard LOURIE, Sakharov: A Biography, Brandeis University Press Published by University Press of New England, Hanover NH and London, 2002, 465 pages, index, 35 photographs.

  6. Edward D. LOZANSKY (Ed.), Andrei Sakharov and Peace, Avon, New York, 1985, 325 pages, no index, no photographs.

  7. Joshua RUBENSTEIN and Alexander GRIBANOV (Eds.), The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2005, 397 pages, index, no photographs.

  8. Andrei SAKHAROV, Memoirs (translated from the Russian by Richard Lourie), Hutchinson, London Sydney Auckland Johannesburg, 1990, 775 pages, index, 58 photographs.

  9. Andrei SAKHAROV, Moscow and Beyond: 1986 to 1989 (translated by Antonina Bouis), Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1991, 168 pages, index, 20 photographs.

  10. Allan WYNN (Ed.), Fifth International Sakharov Hearing Proceedings, Andre Deutsch, London, 1986, 214 pages, index, no photographs.

The above ten books contain a total of 163 photographs.  You appear in none of these photographs, and your name appears in none of the captions.

Eight of the ten books have indexes.  Your name appears in none of the indexes.

Editor Babyonyshev's On Sakharov contains a collection of essays by different authors who are listed under Biographical Notes on Contributors on pp. 279-283.  Of the 26 authors whom Babyonyshev invited to contribute essays, you were not one.

Editor Lozansky's Andrei Sakharov and Peace similarly contains a collection of essays by different authors who are listed under The Authors on pp. 323-325.  Of the 18 authors whom Lozansky invited to contribute essays, you were not one.

Editor Wynn's Fifth International Sakharov Hearing Proceedings contains a collection of essays by different panelists.  The page opposite the copyright page lists the members of the Andrei Sakharov Campaign who supported, or who participated in, the proceedings: 12 Patrons, one Chairman, 4 Executive Committee members, and 11 Panelists.  Among these 28 Andrei Sakharov Campaign members, your name is absent.

Your name similarly cannot be found within online Sakharov biographies, as in Wikipedia at  en.wikipedia.org/~ or in MSN Encarta at  encarta.msn.com/~.

It would appear that your support of Andrei Sakharov has fallen beneath the notice not only of Andrei Sakharov himself, but also of his wife Elena Bonner, and of Sakharov biographers and Festschrift editors.

A Suggestion

Perhaps, then, the existing announcements of your participation in the Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov defenses call up images of outstanding contribution, and should be re-worded so as to acknowledge that your contribution was so insubstantial as to be widely regarded as undeserving of recognition, if it is remembered at all.

Lubomyr Prytulak

Irving ABELLA, National Honourary President CJC, Dept History, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto ON  M3J 1P3
John J CHAMBERLIN, Manager Investigations, CHRC, 344 Slater Street, Ottawa ON  K1A 1E1
Mary M GUSELLA, Chief Commissioner, CHRC, 344 Slater Street, Ottawa ON  K1A 1E1
Rt Hon Paul MARTIN, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa ON  K1A 0A2
Ed MORGAN, National President, CJC, 100 Sparks Street, Ottawa ON  K1P 5B7