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By David Bedein, Jerusalem, Middle East Correspondent

Jerusalem, Israel; Judge Richard Goldstone gained notoriety in Israel over the past year when the UN human rights commission that he chaired made the determination that Israel committed war crimes and criticized the Israeli Defense Forces, which, he claimed, had violated basic human rights.

Judge Richard Goldstone forgot only one thing: to make any mention of his own sordid human rights record he criticized others.

A special investigation by the Tel Aviv newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, which will be published in this weekend's Yediot weekend magazine section, will spell out Richard Goldstone’s record as a judge during the apartheid era in South Africa.

It turns out that the judge who authored the UN report which castigated Israel's three week incursion into Gaza took an active part in enforcing the racist policy of one of the cruelest regimes of the twentieth century.

It turns out that when Judge Goldstone sat as a judge in the Court of Appeals in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, Goldstone sent dozens of black people to the gallows without mercy.

This stain on his past did not prevent him from speaking many times against the death penalty and directing sharp criticism at many countries that allowed executions to take place.

Never, it seems in any of his statements, did Goldstone own up to his own actions.

The findings that Yediot Ahronot obtained indicate that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black people to death.

In those days, he made sure to demonstrate his support for the policy of executions.

"The death penalty must reflect society’s demand to claim a price for crimes that people justly see as atrocious", Goldstone wrote in a ruling that rejected the appeal of a black man convicted of murder.

In another sentencing, in which Goldstone confirmed the death sentence for a black youth who had been convicted of murdering the white restaurant owner who fired him, Goldstone wrote that "hanging was the only punishment that could deter in such cases".

"Anger is a relevant factor in imposing appropriate punishment", Goldstone added.

It should be noted that the white members of the supreme, oppressive class demanded the maximum penalty of black people who were involved in acts of violence, while the black majority in South Africa consistently opposed the death penalty.

When he judged defendants for lesser crimes, Goldstone always sided with the racist policy of the apartheid regime.

Among other things, he confirmed a sentence of flogging for four black men convicted of violence.

In another case, Goldstone sentenced two black youths to prison for possessing a cassette containing the recording of a speech by Nelson Mandela.

Only in 1995, when Nelson Mandela’s party came to power, was the South African constitution amended and the death penalty abolished. Hundreds of death row inmates were saved from the gallows, including those whom Goldstone had sentenced to death.

"I always opposed the death penalty, but I was part of a system in which the death penalty existed", Goldstone commented in response to the details of the investigation, which were brought to his attention.

Goldstone also claimed, in his defense, that as a judge during the apartheid era, he had to respect the laws of the country and could not find enough mitigating circumstances to save the defendants brought before him from the death penalty. Goldstone claimed that he never discriminated against black defendants and that he did all he could to act fairly, but sometimes was compelled to uphold laws to which he was morally opposed.

"I was always committed to preserving equality and nondiscrimination, just as I was committed to upholding the law. Sometimes these two principles clashed in very complex ways", he said.

David Bedein can be reached at

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