Were you really Natan Sharansky's lawyer?
Letter 06         27-Sep-2005

Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky
On 23 January 1983, in San Francisco, an International Tribunal of Inquiry was called "to inquire into the imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and his mistreatment by the Soviet Government".  The case for Shcharansky was presented by Professor Alan Dershowitz and Professor Irwin Cotler. Martin Gilbert

  27 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 27-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 skepticism.

Irwin Cotler:

In contrast to the scarcity of evidence that you were ever "Nelson Mandela's lawyer" (as discussed in my letter to you of 19-Sep-2005), or "Andrei Sakharov's lawyer" (as discussed in my letter to you of 25-Sep-2005), the claim that you have been "Natan Sharansky's lawyer" does find some support (as discussed below) a support, however, that is diminished by two incongruities, and by two instances of inadequate documentation.

One incongruity is that neither of Sharansky's two books acknowledges your participation.  The second incongruity is that you never claim to have been Sharansky's lawyer, the claim always being made by third parties.

And burdened with inadequate documentation are (1) the "Cotler Appeal" that you are said to have submitted to Soviet Prosecutor-General Rudenko in August 1978, and (2) the "International Tribunal of Inquiry" before which you are said to have appeared in San Francisco on 23-Jan-1983.

Some Third-Party Claims

Third-party claims that you acted as Natan Sharansky's lawyer are exemplified as follows:

As an international human rights lawyer, Cotler served as counsel to former prisoners of conscience Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Jacobo Timmerman in Latin America, Muchtar Pakpahan in Asia, as well as other well known political prisoners and dissidents.  Cotler represented Natan Sharansky, who was imprisoned in the Soviet gulag for Jewish activism.

Wikipedia  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irwin_Cotler

Cotler, who has defended political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky, suggested it would be prudent to drop the section that defines "terrorist activity" in terms of the perpetrators' motivations.

Paul Lungen, Cotler backs anti-terror bill, suggests amendments, Canadian Jewish News, 22-Nov-2001.

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  osgoode.yorku.ca/~

Cotler represented Natan Sharansky, who was imprisoned in the Soviet gulag for Jewish activism. After his release, Sharansky went on to become Israeli Deputy Prime Minister.

It takes a village to repair the world, United Jewish Communities General Assembly (GA Toronto), 13-Nov-2005  www.gatoronto.com/~

The Corroboration

Your name can be found to be amply represented in Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, in which Martin's unconventional spelling "Shcharansky" is a more accurate reflection of the original Russian, but which is not the spelling that happens to be favored in English today.

Consulting each of the pages cited on pp. 446-447 of Martin's index turns up the following references to you.

Pages 239-240:  Professor Irwin Cotler and Shcharansky's trial

The Prosecutor then asked Shcharansky why, when he sent a telegram of congratulations to the President of the United States on the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, referring to the great achievements of democracy in the United States, he did not refer at the same time to pornography, the millions of unemployed, prostitution, and so forth.  Shcharansky replied that he was "fully aware" of the many negative aspects that exist in Western states, but these facts are reported in Western newspapers, whereas negative conditions in the Soviet Union are never reported in the Soviet press.

There was another aspect to this charge of not mentioning unemployment and prostitution in his telegram: at the very moment when Shcharansky had sent his congratulations to President Ford, the Chairman of the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, Nikolai Podgorny, had also sent a congratulatory telegram to President Ford.  It too made no mention of unemployment, prostitution, or any other negative aspect of American life.  Instead, it spoke of the need for "mutual respect, equality, and a striving for mutual understanding and co-operation" between the Soviet Union and the United States.  A distinguished Canadian lawyer, Irwin Cotler, who later acted for Avital, has commented: "The conclusion is inescapable.  If the Soviet Union wishes to use a congratulatory letter sent by Anatoly Shcharansky as evidence to support the charge of anti-Soviet slander against Shcharansky, then, having regard to the Soviet principle of equality before the law and the courts, they must use the Podgorny letter as evidence to support a charge of anti-Soviet slander against Podgorny, if not the other members of the Praesidium, including Brezhnev."

Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, pp. 239-240.  Reference to "Avital" above is to Natan Sharansky's wife, Avital Sharansky.

Page 281:  Professor Irwin Cotler's legal expertise at Avital Shcharansky's disposal

Tirelessly, always hoping that her next effort would be the successful one, Avital Shcharansky travelled the Western world on behalf of her husband, speaking to students, churchmen, community leaders, diplomats and statesmen.  As she did so, two French lawyers, Allan Rappaport and Maître Jacoby, as well as Alan Dershowitz and a Canadian attorney, Irwin Cotler, put their legal expertise at her disposal.

Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, p. 281.

Pages 281-282:  Professor Irwin Cotler's appeal

In August 1978 Irwin Cotler prepared for Avital an appeal, addressed to Prosecutor-General Rudenko, setting out, with a vast apparatus of legal knowledge and personal affidavits, the facts of Shcharansky's case.  Cotler's appeal concluded that the charge of treason was "clearly as invalid in law as it is unfounded in fact".  He also submitted that the charge of anti-Soviet slander and agitation was "unfounded in fact and invalid in law", and that Rudenko, as Prosecutor-General, "should protest the substantial violations of law and procedure, to the end that the judgement be vacated according to law".

Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, pp. 281-282.

Page 318:  Shcharansky's greetings to Professor Irwin Cotler

Oh yes, yet another greeting, for Jerry and Jane and their son Michael on his wedding.  In general let Natasha pass on my greetings to our many relatives and friends whom she sees nowadays.  I often remember many of them for one reason or another.  Also don't forget Professor Cotler, who was kind enough to pass on greetings to me from the "Magnificent Seven" of old acquaintances.  Of course I send them my reciprocal greetings, gratitude and best wishes.

Excerpt from a letter written by Natan Shcharansky, in Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, p. 318.

Page 361:  Professor Irwin Cotler presents case for Shcharansky

On 23 January 1983, in San Francisco, an International Tribunal of Inquiry was called "to inquire into the imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and his mistreatment by the Soviet Government".  The case for Shcharansky was presented by Professor Alan Dershowitz and Professor Irwin Cotler.  In its conclusion, the Tribunal found "unimpeachable evidence of Mr Shcharansky's innocence", evidence, it said, "which should be shared with the world".

Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, p. 361.

Page 431:  Professor Irwin Cotler publishes "The Shcharansky Appeal"

The following is one of the items in the section titled Bibliography of works consulted, and is the citation for the "appeal" discussed on pp. 281-282 above:

Irwin Cotler, The Shcharansky Appeal: Petition to the Procurator-General of the USSR from Avital Shcharansky, on behalf of herself and her husband, Anatoly Shcharansky, by her attorney Professor Irwin Cotler, presented on 30 August 1978.

Martin Gilbert, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, MacMillan, London, 1986, p. 431.

The above, then, are Martin Gilbert's references to you which at first glance, anyway may tend to strike their reader as corroborative of such statements as the Wikipedia's that "Cotler represented Natan Sharansky."

The Need to Plug Holes in the Dike

It is unfortunate, however, that some incongruities remain which present an opportunity for cynics and skeptics to question the claim that "Cotler represented Natan Sharansky."  If just a small bit of supplementary information were forthcoming from your direction, it might resolve all such incongruities, and it might silence all cynics and skeptics.  Among such incongruities are the following:

The Wikipedia connection is unidirectional

Although the Wikipedia biography under "Irwin Cotler" claims you were Sharansky's lawyer, the biography under "Natan Sharansky" does not mention you.  Sharansky, one might conclude, has played a more important role in your life than you have played in his.

Sharansky does not acknowledge you in his books

Fear No Evil

Sharansky wrote two books, and mentions you in neither.

Natan Sharansky, Fear no Evil: The Classic Memoir of One Man's Triumph Over a Police State, Random House, New York, 1988.  You appear in none of the ten photographs.  Your name appears in neither the photograph captions nor in the index.

Natan Sharansky (with Ron Dermer), The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, Public Affairs, New York, 2004.  Contains no photographs.  Your name does not appear in the index.

If the degree of attention Shcharansky pays you were adopted as a measure of your legal services rendered, then a cynic might conclude that Sharansky altogether neglects you because he judged your services as altogether undeserving of recognition or thanks.

You seem to yourself doubt the value of your contribution to Sharansky's defense

Your service to Sharansky fails to be acknowledged in any of the biographies below, which may be supposed to have been written by you:

Now here we are confronted with a towering incongruity.  Where I could find no evidence that you had ever served as Nelson Mandela's lawyer, you seized every opportunity to claim that you had.  And where I could find no evidence that you had ever served as Andrei Sakharov's lawyer, you also seized every opportunity to claim that you had.  But now that I do find evidence that you did provide some support for Natan Sharansky, I discover you neglecting to take credit.

Why do you take credit where maybe you shouldn't, and fail to take credit where maybe you should?  And on top of that why does Natan Sharansky, following the example of Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov, fail to acknowledge you in his books?

In an attempt to resolve this puzzle, I reviewed the Martin Gilbert statements quoted above.

Reviewing the Martin Gilbert Testimony.

Of the five topics dealt with by Martin Gilbert, three are insubstantial, and do not, either singly or together, come close to qualifying you as having served as Natan Sharansky's lawyer.

  1. Pages 229-230 has you summarizing for Canadians an argument that Sharansky had presented to a Soviet court.  The argument is effective, and your paraphrasing it for Canadians is supportive of Sharansky, but your role is closer to that of a reporter than of Sharansky's lawyer.

  2. Page 281 has you mentioned in fourth place among four lawyers who placed their legal expertise at the disposal of Natan Sharansky's wife, Avital.  But offering your services to the wife is not the same as delivering them to the husband.  This too falls short of making you Natan Sharansky's lawyer.

  3. Page 318 has Natan Sharansky acknowledging that you passed greetings along to him, and shows him returning those greetings, but perhaps somewhat perfunctorily.  Sharansky does not say that the "gratitude" he expresses is for your legal services; it could have been for as little as your expression of sympathy or your moral support or your admiration of his courage.  Everyone must be convinced that the two of you were acquainted, but the evidence that you acted as his lawyer has yet to appear.

The two Martin Gilbert topics that remain offer the greatest potential for corroborating your claim to have acted as Natan Sharansky's lawyer.

  1. Pages 281-282 and 431 allude to an "appeal" (referred to below as the "Cotler Appeal"), but do not say whether it was written in English or Russian, or how a Canadian lawyer working in Canada could have been able to cite Soviet law or precedent, or whether this Cotler Appeal was properly submitted, and filed by the Soviet court, or ignored by the court as a mere informal letter from somebody who had not taken the trouble to obtain standing or to get his submission filed, and which informal letter the court was obligated to ignore just as it was obligated to ignore any ex parte letter that it might receive which attempted to influence a judicial decision.  It may even be wondered whether your letter reached the court at all, as it seems to have been mailed only to the prosecutor, Rudenko, whom nothing prevented from filing it in his trash can.  It may be questioned why your letter was not sent instead to Sharansky's Soviet defense lawyers, who had they found your letter helpful would have known how to submit it to the court so as to make it part of the trial record.

    Answering the above questions, and publishing a copy of this Cotler Appeal, would be indispensible steps toward clarifying whether it constitutes the occasion on which you may be said to have acted as Natan Sharansky's lawyer.

  2. Page 361 has Alan Dershowitz and yourself appearing before an "International Tribunal of Inquiry" in San Francisco on 23-Jan-1983.  However, when I searched the microfilm of the New York Times and the Globe and Mail over the dates Saturday 22-Jan-1983 through Tuesday 25-Jan-1983, I was unable to find any reference to such an "International Tribunal," which surprised me, as I imagined that it would be of interest to the press, especially since among its participants was one of America's most famous lawyers Alan Dershowitz and especially since its purpose was to contribute toward the emancipation of one of the world's most famous political prisoners Natan Sharansky.  And even if the press happened not to attend the hearings of the "International Tribunal," I would have expected them to at least summarize the press releases which the "International Tribunal" might be expected to have issued.

    For the purpose of lending credibility to this "International Tribunal," would you be able to disclose what body authorized it as perhaps the United Nations, the World Court, the United States Government, the State of California, the City of San Francisco or perhaps no authorization from any body?  And in what San Francisco building did this "International Tribunal" convene, and over what interval of time, and on what dates?  And who were the judges who sat on this "International Tribunal"?  And what lawyers represented the Soviet viewpoint?  And what witnesses testified, and what documents were consulted?  And if this "International Tribunal" concluded that its evidence "should be shared with the world," then where are the newspaper reports indicating that the evidence had been so shared, and where a transcript of its proceedings, and where a copy of its final report?  The fundamental question that needs to be addressed is the degree to which this "International Tribunal of Inquiry" amounts to more than a Dershowitz-Cotler publicity stunt.

    Until the above issues are resolved and the requested material disclosed, Martin Gilbert's reference to your appearance before an "International Tribunal of Inquiry" will fall short of establishing that it was the occasion on which you may be said to have acted as Natan Sharansky's lawyer.

Human Rights or Zionist Rights?

Your Wikipedia biography begins the listing of your international clients with the words "As an international human rights lawyer, Cotler served as counsel to...."  However, delving into the nature of the project of which Natan Sharansky's release was one goal leads to the question of whether "human rights" played any role.  For example, Martin Gilbert's Appendix 1 lists "Prisoners of Zion on 12 February 1986."  His Appendix 2 lists "Former Prisoners of Zion Still Refused Exit Visas as of 12 February 1986."  His Appendix 3 tabulates Jewish emigration:

Appendix 3
Annual Emigration of Soviet Jews,
1951 to 1985

1951 186    1969 3,011   
1952 56    1970 1,044   
1953 39    1971 13,033   
1954 26    1972 31,681   
1955 123    1973 34,733   
1956 460    1974 20,767   
1957 1,314    1975 13,363   
1958 720    1976 14,261   
1959 1,353    1977 16,737   
1960 1,917    1978 28,864   
1961 216    1979 51,320   
1962 184    1980 21,471   
1963 304    1981 9,475   
1964 530    1982 2,638   
1965 887    1983 1,314   
1966 2,027    1984 896   
1967 1,416    1985 1,140   
1968 230       

But if this is a human rights project, then where is the corresponding list of non-Jewish political prisoners languishing in Soviet dungeons, and of non-Jews denied exit visas, and where the table corresponding to the above of non-Jews who were allowed to emigrate?  Clearly, unless Jews are considered to be human and no one else is, then Sharansky's rescue cannot be considered to be part of a human rights effort, but only at best as part of a Jewish-rights effort.

And given that the emigrating Soviet Jews tended to be denied the choice of where they would emigrate to, but rather were coerced to Israel, and given that what awaited them in Israel was often unemployment or menial labor, and with their bridges burned behind them, then this project cannot properly be credited even as a Jewish-rights project.  It was in reality only a Zionist-rights project, numbering among its victims the displaced Jews, and the Palestinians whose lands were confiscated to house them, and the American taxpayers who footed the bill.

When the emigration of Soviet Jews was permitted by Moscow, they began pouring into Israel in large numbers, particularly after the doors to the United States became closed to them.  Jealous of the attention and advantages given these new arrivals from Europe who, they were quick to point out, had come only as a matter of second choice, the Ethiopian Jews referred to themselves as the "forgotten immigrants."  (The Israeli Arabs, predictably, resented both of these groups of newcomers.)

Like the Ethiopians before them, Soviet Jews could scarcely integrate into their new country.  Struggling to learn Hebrew, a foreign language to them, they found it nearly impossible to obtain employment and even housing.  Soviet doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers and other intellectuals have had to become street cleaners and laborers or remain unemployed.  Most were neither religious nor Zionist which made it more difficult for them.  Many have tried to go home to "Mother Russia," but have had to earn their flight back home.

Alfred M. Lilienthal, The Grand Illusion of Jewish Ethnicity, Middle East Policy, Volume 1, Issue 3, 1992, p. 107.

You will need to explain, then, whether you approve of third parties representing your efforts on behalf of Natan Sharansky whatever they were as bolstering your human rights credentials when they ignored the rights of everybody but Jews, real or pretended, who were willing to relocate to Israel.  Unless you can offer a satisfactory explanation, then even if you were to convince everybody that you did act as Natan Sharansky's lawyer, you would nevertheless have to move his name out of the section of your biography documenting your work on behalf of human rights and into a new section documenting your work on behalf of Zionism.

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