Former prime minister Paul Martin and former Israeli cabinet minister and Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky have endorsed the nomination of Irwin Cotler for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Cotler was nominated by Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor, an Israeli-based academic research institute concerned with the policies of non-governmental organizations, particularly in regard to Israel.
Cotler served as justice minister and attorney general in Martin’s Liberal cabinet from 2003 to 2006.
Steinberg cites Cotler’s lifelong human rights advocacy, especially on behalf of political prisoners around the world. After leaving politics in 2015, Cotler founded, and is president of, the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
In his letter of recommendation dated Sept. 17, Martin wrote: “I can personally attest to the fact that Professor Irwin Cotler is relentless in his campaign for human rights for all individuals. His efforts deserve to be encouraged and granting him the Nobel Peace Prize will have enormous benefit in the continuing fight for freedom and universal human rights.”
Martin goes on to list Cotler’s accomplishments while he served in government, including reforming the Supreme Court appointment process, a law on human trafficking, legislation allowing same-sex marriages, as well as initiatives on the international front, such as holding Iran accountable.
Today, Cotler is a defender of such jailed human rights activists as Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Shiite cleric Ayatollah Hossein Boroujerdi in Iran.
In his letter of recommendation, Sharansky testifies to Cotler’s “tireless efforts on my behalf when I was a political prisoner in the former Soviet Union (1977-1986). By bringing my case, like that of many other such victims of injustice whose cases he championed, to the attention of the international community, Professor Cotler played a direct and central role in my release.”
A third endorser, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, professor emeritus of the American University in Cairo, is a more recent beneficiary of Cotler’s advocacy.
He writes: “As an Egyptian human rights defender in Egypt, I have personally experienced the importance of Professor Irwin Cotler’s work as a human rights lawyer and tireless activist.”
Ibrahim, founder of the Arab Human Rights Organization, was jailed in 2000 and charged with treason.
Cotler’s intervention through a detailed legal brief helped secure his acquittal in 2003, he says. “My admiration and gratitude for his contributions are boundless.”
Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, stated that, “In an age when these values are often ignored or exploited for narrow agendas, Professor Cotler embodies the core principle of universality. His vigorous defence of political prisoners encompasses South Africa, Russia, Iran and many more countries.”
This is not the first Nobel nomination for Cotler: in 2016, Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz said he was putting his longtime friend’s name forward.