18 September - French journalist fears UN is stalling the UN Report on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
In his challenging article published in Passblue titled “Stalling the UN Report on Dag Hammarskjold’s Death Is Regrettable”, Maurin Picard, New York correspondent for Le Soir (Brussels) and Le Figaro (Paris) fears the UN’s delayed publication of the Othman report follows pressure from interested UN Member States.Nevertheless, Picard does not spare the United Nations itself in his critique. He reminds readers that in Resolution 72/252 (News item, December 24, 2017), the General Assembly requested that the secretary-general “report to the Assembly before the end of its seventy-third session on any further progress made.” This deadline has now passed and António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, will be expected give substance to his address at the recent wreath-laying ceremony (News item 17 September, 2019) in which he stated “I reiterate my personal commitment and recall our shared responsibility to pursue the truth, for Dag Hammarskjöld.”
Picard, author of ‘Ils ont tué Monsieur H: Congo 1961. Le complot des mercenaires français contre l’ONU’ (News item, 27 May 2019), attended the press meeting at which Stéphane Dujarric, UN spokesperson, reported that the Othman report would not be released on time due to a “delay in document processing.”
Picard argues this delay, beyond the promised 16 September deadline, will please those UN Member States which observers believe have sought to close down the inquiry and anyway ensure the release of the Report takes place well after the high profile, opening days of the new General Assembly traditionally attended by many heads of state.
Picard identifies those Member States which he believes have given inadequate support to the UN. “Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, South Africa and the United States may well be wary of revealing the details of events from the colonial era, however ancient they may be. Even Hammarskjold’s own country, Sweden, has refused to declassify some documents related to the Ndola tragedy, invoking “national security” considerations” he writes.
Claiming that, after almost six decades, the UN has never been closer to the truth, Picard summarises which key Member States have failed to assist it, challenging that:
· Belgium must share all details about a few rogue mercenary pilots.
· France must clarify the whereabouts of a military outfit led by a paratroop officer, Roger Faulques.
· Germany must explain the delivery of a Dornier 28 plane, weeks before the crash, to the Katangese secessionist government, as well as the whereabouts of a former Nazi night-fighter pilot named Heinrich Schaefer.
· South Africa must recover what it calls “lost” apartheid papers regarding a certain Operation Celeste, apparently designed to kill Hammarskjold.
· Britain must explain why senior diplomats in charge at Ndola refused to acknowledge the sudden disappearance of the Albertina and turned off the airport lights. It must also explain what Intelligence Service assets were doing that night in the vicinity of the airport.
· The US must provide clarity regarding the confessions of two now-deceased National Security Agency employees who, from their listening stations, overheard an air attack unfold against the Albertina and reported it back to the White House.
17 September - Secretary-General lays wreath to remember Hammarskjöld as world awaits Final Report
Speaking to mark the anniversary of the death of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to his life and his supreme sacrifice. “Around the world, Dag Hammarskjöld is rightly revered for his achievements, his dedication and his values. Dag Hammarskjöld gave his life for peace. Today, we recognize this as the ultimate act of courage” he said.
Mr Guterres then referred to the imminent publication of the report of the investigation into the possible causes of the air crash in which Mr Hammarskjöld and his colleagues died.
“In a few weeks, the General Assembly will consider a report by Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman, who I appointed in 2017 to examine the circumstances of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. I reiterate my personal commitment and recall our shared responsibility to pursue the truth, for Dag Hammarskjöld and those who died with him, their loved ones, the United Nations and the people we serve. I look forward to engaging with Member States on this” he said.
The complete address can be read here.
5 September - Useful updates on Hammarskjöld inquiry in French and Italian
The independent Italian author and journalist Fabio Carisio has very usefully summarised the sequence of developments in the Hammarskjöld inquiry in French and Italian as well as in English. We are sure many of our readers will welcome these and we thank him for his support. The summaries can be read here:
11 August - Raised expectations of progress as Judge submits final report to UN Secretary-General
Judge Mohamed Chande Othman, the ‘eminent person’ charged to implement UN General Assembly Resolution 71/260 (23 December 2016) has now submitted the final report in his ‘Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him’. UN Secretary-General António Guterres will present the judge’s report to the UN General Assembly later this year, together with his recommendations for further action.
This final report follows his earlier report (October 2017) in which he observed “Far from approaching the possible limit of our understanding, the deeper we have gone into the searches, the more relevant information has been found.” Amongst recommendations in that report, he urged more cooperation from nine key countries, later extended to a further five countries (News Item 3 September 2018). The responses from these countries have differed greatly in their support although it is understood the Judge is content with the majority of these, having led to the discovery of important and useful information. Responses from some countries have been disappointing (News Item 3 December 2018).
Sweden continues to serve as lead nation in carrying through the implementation of the General Assembly’s Resolution 71/260. In securing the successful passage of three votes in the General Assembly, it has skilfully coordinated more than one hundred UN Member States, ensuring the continuation of the Judge’s investigations. Even so, its own protocols continue to hinder some requests for access to official Hammarskjöld-related documents on grounds that they are classified under national security laws (New York Times 4 August 2019). This follows its protracted correspondence with the families of those others who died in the plane crash.
In the UK, the Westminster United Nations Association, utilising the Freedom of Information Act, has pursued its request that the British government release information relating to the UN Secretary-General’s request to the UK Government to appoint a high ranking and independent official to examine state records on the matter (News Item 4 May). Having received an unsatisfactory response to its follow-up request, it has referred the matter to the office of the independent Information Commissioner. On 5 August, the Commissioner confirmed that the reference was eligible for further consideration and would be ‘carried forward as soon as possible’.
27 May - New book ‘Ils ont tué Monsieur H’ focuses on French mercenaries’ activities
The newly published book ‘Ils ont tué Monsieur H: Congo 1961. Le complot des mercenaires français contre l’ONU’* is the first detailed study of important French dimensions related to the tragedy, sharing the result of detailed research by author Maurin Picard, New York-based correspondent for Le Soir (Brussels) and Le Figaro (Paris).
The book’s publication comes weeks before former Tanzanian Chief Justice Judge Mohamed Chande Othman, the ‘eminent person’ tasked to lead the inquiry into the plane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld died, submits his report to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Picard assesses alternative theories pointing to a possible aerial attack on Hammarskjöld’s plane, arguing that the Belgian government had been long reluctant to open confidential archives to UN investigators – or investigators in general. Former colonial era Sureté documents had been placed in Defence Ministry archives, separate from the more accessible state archives (AGR). These show that the day before his death, Hammarskjöld wrote personally to Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak asking him to put an end to the ‘criminal acts’ of the Dutch-British pilot Van Risseghem who had been attacking UN ground positions and threatening UN air transport.
However, it is in the archives of the powerful Belgian company Union Minière du Haut-Katanga (UMHK) in which the British mining company Tanganyika Concessions (Tanks) had a major interest that Picard discovers evidence of its collusion with and funding of mercenaries then fighting the UN forces. Documents refer to a cover-up against the ‘UN occupier’ along with evidence of real fear of an uprising against the all-white management staff.
Further revelations indicate orchestrated resistance to the UN at the time, and point to collusion with MI5 and MI6 British intelligence operatives. These records also confirm the close involvement of Captain Charles Waterhouse, chairman of Tanks, and other British industrialists identified also in Susan Williams’ book ‘Who killed Hammarskjöld?’.
Information revealed in the book underpins Judge Othman’s observation that ‘Far from approaching the possible limit of our understanding, the deeper we have gone into the searches, the more relevant information has been found.’ (Report, 2017)
The book will surely raise interest amongst Francophone readers especially where it examines the activities of French mercenaries led by Colonel Faulques, former officer of the 11ième choc, an elite regiment in the French army.
In his article for Le Soir (14 May 2019), Maurin Picard examines the participation of intelligence operatives from several interested countries.
* ‘They have killed Monsieur H: 1961, The French mercenaries’ plot against the UN' (Editions du Seuil, French only)
20 May - New book explores Hammarskjöld’s role in the decolonisation of Africa
In his book Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations and the decolonisation of Africa (Hurst), Dr Henning Melber explores the years of African decolonisation during which Hammarskjöld was in office, investigating the scope and limits of his influence within the context of global governance.
Dr Melber paints a picture of a man with strong guiding principles, but limited room for manoeuvre, colliding with the essential interests of the big powers as the ‘wind of change’ blew over the African continent. His book is a critical contribution to the study of international politics and the role of the UN in the Cold War. It is also a tribute to the achievements of a cosmopolitan Swede.Dr Henning Melber is Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He is also President of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes, and Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Political Sciences and at the University of the Free State’s Centre for Africa Studies
4 May - Westminster UNA rejects UK response to its Freedom of Information requestOn 10 September 2018, Hammarskjöldinquiry.info reported international puzzlement over continuing resistance by the UK and South Africa to respond to the UN Secretary-General’s repeated requests for cooperation on the continuing inquiry into the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.
In March 2019, Westminster UNA submitted a Freedom of Information request to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) asking for all recorded information relating to the UN Secretary-General’s request to the UK Government to appoint a high ranking and independent official to examine state records on the matter.
However, in its response of 25 April, the FCO refused to supply the requested information. It evaded the issue of which of two exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) underpinned its refusal.
Westminster UNA has returned to the FCO pointing to another section of the same Act which states that it should have received a response specifying the exemption or exemptions in question and stating (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemptions apply. It has requested the FCO to reconsider its response. An appeal to the Information Commissioner could follow.
25 April - London meeting supports continuation of UN Inquiry into Hammarskjöld plane crash until the truth is revealedAt a meeting organised by the Westminster United Nations Association to review progress of the UN inquiry into the plane crash, speakers joined in condemning the governments of the UK and South Africa for their refusal to cooperate with the UN as requested by the UN Secretary-General. The texts of individual addresses can be read at the end of this report.
The meeting was chaired by Baroness Garden of Frognal. Speaking first, Dr Henning Melber referred to Hammarskjöld, the world’s senior civil servant, as one who viewed the work of the UN as building on the commonality of humankind, its conduct and experience. He reminded the audience that when Hammarskjöld’s plane crashed near Ndola, the regional white settler-minority regimes were visibly relieved if not jubilant.
Lord Lea of Crondall recounted how in Spring 2012 and after reading Susan Williams’ book Who killed Hammarskjöld?, he had set up the high-level Commission of International Jurists to re-open the inquiry into Dag Hammarskjöld’s tragic death, never thinking that the matter would be of continuing international concern seven years later. In referring to the UK’s lack of co-operation, a matter of public record, he stated it was unacceptable for MI6 to hide behind the National Archives’ webpage which states that the sensitive nature of intelligence work means that many files have been destroyed or retained by the security services themselves. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, he urged the UN to publish an authoritative summary of its successive findings on all these matters.
Sir Stephen Sedley spoke admiringly of his ‘A Team’, his fellow commissioners, Judge Wilhelmina Thomassen of the Netherlands, Ambassador Hans Corell of Sweden, and Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa. He reiterated his view that there was now, half a century later, enough new evidence to justify the UN in re-opening the inconclusive inquiry which it set up in the aftermath of the crash. He asked whether it was credible either that no US aircraft were at Ndola that night monitoring the airwaves, or that, if they were (as plainly was the case), no record exists of their presence? If not, it may be necessary to ask how much credence should be given to other denials issued by the defence and security agencies of the US? Johan Berglund, Counsellor at the Embassy of Sweden, noted that Sweden has been leading efforts to re-establish the Hammarskjöld investigation through resolutions in the UN General Assembly. The Swedish special investigator had been given unprecedented access to national archives including those of its intelligence services and he encouraged all those countries which had not yet appointed their own national investigator, to do so.
The Rt. Revd. Trevor Musonda Mwamba, speaking as one Zambian-born, referred to the morality in the pursuit of the truth from an African viewpoint. He stated that as Dag Hammarskjöld died on Zambian soil, his soul became part of Zambia and Zambia part of him. “As Zambians we are therefore desirous to know the truth of why Dag Hammarskjöld was killed. It's important for Zambia's identity to know its past in order to embrace its authentic self in the future” he said. In quoting Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana, "When a man tells a lie, he loses his dignity and so it is with a country”, he urged the British and South African governments to cooperate with the UN, concluding that ultimately the truth does set a person free and a country too - ennobling both, making them better, to do good in the world.
Dr Williams set out reasons why the UK government’s claim that ‘all information of direct value had been made available by the UK in previous years or had been released’ cannot be true. She listed inconsistencies in UK and US statements, concluding that the failure of the UK today to cooperate with the UN is tantamount to a cover-up and consistent with its behaviour over the many years since the crash in 1961.
David Wardrop, chair of Westminster UNA, assessed the utility in continuing the UN inquiry, bearing in mind its cost. He reminded the audience that it covers the crash which took place in British colonial Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, which neighbours the Congo, two-thirds the size of Western Europe, and which was engaged in a conflict involving powerful states, colonial and non-colonial and UN peacekeeping contingents from 21 countries. The UN inquiry’s budget is US$321k inclusive of translation of the report into other UN languages. By comparison, the UK government-funded inquiry Operation Resolve which tackled the Hillsborough Football Stadium tragedy cost £56.5m, while the parallel Independent Police Complaints Commission’s investigation into allegations of a police ‘cover-up’ following the tragedy cost over £42m. (Yorkshire Post, 29 June 2017). “The financial capability of the UN’s Member States to continue the Hammarskjöld inquiry is not in doubt” he said. “What is in doubt is their resolve to do so.”
He reported on the recent Freedom of Information request made by Westminster UNA to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) asking for all recorded information relating to the UN Secretary-General’s request to the UK Government to appoint a high ranking and independent official to examine state records on the matter. The FCO had sent an interim response and he shared his concern that the final reply, if unsatisfactory, might lead to a request for a review and possible appeal to the independent Information Commissioner (see note). If this process is delayed, Judge Othman’s mandate from the UN may have expired, an outcome some suggest the UK government seeks to secure.
In concluding, Mr Wardrop remarked that these are the challenges which those who founded the United Nations in 1945 were determined it should tackle in the name of all humanity. As long as the deaths of Dag Hammarskjöld and those with him remain unresolved, its mission remains incomplete, an unfulfilled challenge. If its Member States, especially those which so resolved in 1945, fail in this duty, they betray those same vows to this and to succeeding generations.” There followed questions from the audience.
Note: The final FCO response, released with remarkable coincidence during the meeting and therefore not shared, failed to provide the information requested. A later news item will report on this.
The addresses of each speaker can be reached here.
Dr Henning Melber, Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Uppsala
Lord Lea of Crondall, Chairman of the independent Hammarskjöld Inquiry Trust
The Rt. Hon. Sir Stephen Sedley, Chairman, independent Hammarskjöld Commission
Johan Berglund, Counsellor, Embassy of Sweden
Rt. Revd. Trevor Musonda Mwamba, former Bishop of Botswana
Dr Susan Williams, Author, ‘Who killed Hammarskjöld?’
The meeting backgrounder can be read here.
19 March - Westminster calls meeting in parliament to review UK support for UN Inquiry
The Westminster United Nations Association has called a meeting at 3pm on 25 April in the House of Lords, London, to provide an update on the UN Inquiry’s progress and to share its disappointment in the UK government’s continuing unhelpful attitude towards the UN’s efforts. Its claim that all relevant archives and files are already in the public domain continues to be questioned by experienced researchers, knowing that MI5, MI6 and GCHQ were operating in the Congo at the time when Hammarskjöld’s plane crashed.
The meeting will feature speakers from several countries including Dr Henning Melber, Director Emeritus, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Sweden; Johan Berglund, Counsellor, Embassy of Sweden; the Rt. Revd. Trevor Mwamba, former Bishop of Botswana; Sir Stephen Sedley, Chair of the Independent Hammarskjöld Commission; Maurin Picard, Author and journalist for Le Figaro (Paris) and Le Soir (Brussels); Ian Martin, former UN Special Representative to several countries; and David Wardrop, editor of the Hammarskjöld Inquiry website.
The meeting will be followed by a discussion led by Dr Henning Melber on Dag Hammarskjöld’s role in the decolonisation of Africa during the era of the Cold War. Dr Melber will show how Hammarskjöld used his office to act on the basis of anti-hegemonic values, including solidarity and recognition of otherness.
The meeting is open to the public but registration is required. Please register here.
9 February - Families of those killed in Hammarskjöld plane crash question UN’s determination in its pursuit of the truth
For many years, the families of the fifteen others who perished along with Dag Hammarskjöld in his plane which crashed on its final descent have fought hard to reawaken international interest in the matter. Over the years, a group representing the families have maintained an independent, discrete campaign, urging action by the United Nations but choosing to distance their efforts from the campaign coordinated by UNA Westminster, host of this information service and related initiatives.
This public silence has now been broken. The group’s coordinator, Hynrich Wieschhoff whose father Heinrich Wieschhoff died on the plane, has now publicly shared his concern that the UN itself might be losing interest in its own inquiry into the incident. Published in PassBlue, the online journal of the Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Sciences which covers UN issues, his article The Elusive Truth About the Death of Dag Hammarskjöld outlines these concerns.
He writes “At first we assumed the UN would be vigilant in looking for new clues and dogged in running them to ground, and for years that seemed to be the case. Dad’s UN associates fielded our questions about the results of the original investigations and new allegations of wrongdoing promptly and graciously. Once those associates left the UN, however, I gradually began having doubts that anyone in a leadership position cared much, if at all. One exception was Jan Eliasson, the deputy secretary-general under Ban Ki-moon, who was seemingly alone in advocating a serious look at the death of his idol and fellow Swede, Mr. Hammarskjöld.”
Referring to the UN’s public posture toward Mr. Hammarskjöld, he claims a “certain callousness prevails, despite high-sounding pronouncements to the contrary. In my experience, concern about the other 15 victims is even lower.”
It is this perception that led to the “coming together of nearly all the families of the deceased”, one factor why the UN is now paying more attention to their interests, at least in its public comments. He cites the case when a group of the relatives sent the UN Secretariat a copy of a letter thanking the UN members sponsoring a recent resolution bearing on the crash. The response was a form letter from the public inquiries team stating that “the matter you raise is one of domestic jurisdiction, and does not fall within the competence of the United Nations.”
Mr Wieschhoff credits the book “Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa” by Susan Williams as having a galvanic effect on the UN hierarchy. However, he believes the UN has still ‘ducked’, avoiding discomfiting questions about the roles of Belgium, France, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Britain and the US in events related to the crash, and possibly about the UN’s own handling of its original investigation and subsequent new evidence as well.
In support of his claim that the UN is showing insufficient attention to the importance of the matter, he charges it with doing “little to publicize the activities of Judge Othman, leading the current inquiry, slow to fully declassify its own archives, still refusing to release some documents” and, he claims, seeking to end the inquiry. Only through Sweden’s insistence did the General Assembly renew the inquiry in 2017.
Mr Wieschhoff continues his criticism of the UN’s level of support for the “impressive work” of Judge Othman noting that the UN secretary-general did not personally present Judge Othman’s interim report to the General Assembly. [Note Mr Guterres was attending the Climate Change conference in Katovice, Poland at the time]
In conclusion, he observes that the opportunity presented by the author Susan Williams and the commission’s reports may well lead to more important information but he worries that this will not be accompanied by a new sense of purpose by the UN in prying the facts out of Britain, the US and other key states on what happened.
28 January - Westminster UNA questions editorial integrity of The Guardian and The Observer
The Westminster United Nations Association (UNA) which hosts HammarskjöldInquiry.info shared its dismay over articles published in The Guardian and The Observer which sought to cover the launch of the film Cold Case Hammarskjöld.
In his letter to these newspapers, David Wardrop, Chairman of Westminster UNA referred to the following articles
“RAF veteran ‘admitted 1961 killing of UN secretary general’” The Guardian, 12 January
“Coups and murder: the sinister world of apartheid’s secret mercenaries” The Observer, 20 January
he drew attention to reporting bylines granted in both newspapers to Andreas Rocksén and Mads Brügger, respectively the producer and director of the film Cold Case Hammarskjöld, suggesting to readers that both were qualified reporting staff. Clearly this was not the case.
Mr Wardrop identified five breaches in the journals’ joint editorial code of conduct relating to attribution, verification, conflicts of interest, and declaration of interest.
Replying for both newspapers, Paul Chadwick, Readers' editor, stated “I have considered the articles in light of the editorial standard on disclosure of interests and I agree that the connection of two of the bylined authors of the articles to the film referred to in the articles ought to be made clear to readers. A footnote to ensure it has now been added to the articles online.”
A third article on the subject acceded to Mr Chadwick’s instruction.
“We are pleased these newspapers agree with us on this point and they have clarified the position of these two film makers who we believe successfully led their readers to assume the authenticity of the reporting” said Mr Wardrop. “However, the online post-publication amendments to the first two articles and similar treatment with the third don’t move far enough for us. Readers should confidently assume that those granted bylines do not have financial interest in the matter covered by any article”.
27 January - UNA Westminster urges New York Times to pursue today’s governments, not yesterday’s fantasies
David Wardrop, chairman, Westminster United Nations Association, has challenged the New York Times on its coverage of one of the claims made by the makers of the film Cold Case Hammarskjöld. The newspaper’s article “Quest to Solve Assassination Mystery Revives an AIDS Conspiracy Theory” (27 January) examined the decades old story about the activities of SAIMR (South African Institute for Maritime Affairs), an independent initiative of the Apartheid-era, revived by the film Cold Case Hammarskjöld. The New York Times betrayed well-founded scepticism on the film’s claims but Mr Wardrop urged that its reporters would be better deployed asking questions of the current government in Pretoria.
In his letter to the newspaper, he stated “As late as 2018, the UN Secretary-General and the late Kofi Annan both sought South African cooperation in the UN’s continuing and wide-ranging inquiry into the causes of the crash but it has refused. At the time it seeks permanent membership of the UN Security Council, this stance is mystifying and inexcusable. Rather than chase distant discredited diversions, your reporters should seek answers from South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, a few blocks away from your offices.”
Mads Brügger, Director of Cold Case Hammarskjöld has won the Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
22 January - Accident Investigators question conclusions reached by Cold Case Hammarskjöld film
According to an article in Dagens Nyheter, a Stockholm newspaper, the film Cold Case Hammarskjöld has led several flight experts to speak out on and question the film’s theory that bullet fire caused a hole in the wreckage of the aircraft carrying Dag Hammarskjöld and others to Ndola. Damage to part of the fabric tail fin would have occurred when the plane collided with objects on the ground, they state.
Dagens Nyheter reporter Jens Littorin consulted several experts. Björn Virving, one of Sweden’s leading experts on the crash, was sceptical having gained sight of the picture featured in the film. He observes that the hole in the tail fin, the size of a large orange, was most likely created when the plane slammed into the ground. Virving’s opinion is reinforced upon learning that the DC6 tail fin was made of canvas, not aluminium as he had first understood. “The hole was probably caused by collision with a tree branch,” Virving says.
Sven Hammarberg, an accident investigator now working at BVR Investigations, also dismisses the theory.
Hammarberg, who worked for the original independent Hammarskjöld Commission in 2013 states he has not yet found any support for the attack theory but believes that the crash site and the wreckage layout clearly point to a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) indicating the pilots were without fault in those final moments. In his comments on the filmmakers behind Cold Case Hammarskjöld, he notes that the wreckage was full of similar holes and damage. “Of course the hole was seen initially and surely examined. The simple explanation for it not being mentioned in the original reports could be that, like other damage, it was too easy to write off the cause as accidental” Hammarberg says.
Further, he questions the claim made by Göran Björkdahl, who features in the film, that the wreckage should be dug up again to be analysed with modern technology. “We also invited explosives expert Alex Diehl to analyse the picture and he agreed” says film producer Rocksén. Nevertheless, according to Jens Littorin, he now welcomes Hammarberg's opinion, given his experience as a casualty investigator and knowledge of the crash site.
13 January - New film Cold Case Hammarskjöld to premiere at Sundance Festival
Danish journalist and film-maker Mads Brügger will premiere his film Cold Case Hammarskjöld at five screenings from 26 January at the Sundance Film Festival. Later, it will be screened at the Gothenburg Film Festival and on Swedish TV. The festival organisers introduce Brügger as an ‘enfant terrible’ bringing ‘his distinctive touch to what in other hands might be treated as a deadly earnest crime scene investigation procedural. Instead, the result is an irreverent, genre-bending political thriller sure to generate controversy.’
In an associated article published in The Observer (12 January) in which Brügger and Andreas Rocksén, co-producer of Cold Case Hammarskjöld, are merited by-lines, it is claimed that Jan van Risseghem*, long suspected as a possible attacker of the DC6 Albertina and hitherto understood to have been Belgian, had ‘extensive ties to Britain, including a British mother and wife, trained with the RAF and was decorated by Britain for his service in the second world war.’ The article does not claim that van Risseghem was responsible for an attack or that, according to flight logs, was even in the region at the time of the accident but cites Roger Bracco, another mercenary flying for the Katangese, who claimed that ‘his colleague’s logbooks are dotted with apparent forgeries.’
Canadian-born author Dov Ivry doubts the claims made by Mads Brügger concerning van Risseghem. In his blog Hammarskjöld - Whodunit? Not the Guy In the Movie (Times of Israel, 14 January), Ivry charges Brügger’s film to be ‘passing fiction off as fact.’ Citing news items carried on these pages, he concludes that ‘Someone knows whodunit, as in the British, the South Africans, and the Americans, but none of them are talking to the UN investigation team or anyone else.’
* Jan van Risseghem is one of a number who have been named since 1961 as the pilot who might have attacked the Albertina. The independent Hammarskjöld Commission (para 13.42) mentions a Beukels as the pilot. Others who have either claimed to have been responsible or who have been accused include Bud Culligan, Colin Cooper and Swanepoel, and André Gilson.
11 January - New expert analysis seeks to explain last moments of Dag’s DC6
In their article Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?, Matthew Stevenson recounts his visit to the crash site in Ndola, Zambia, in 2017, and Joseph Majerle III – drawing on decades of experience as both mechanic and pilot - questions conclusions underpinning the initial colonial-era crash reports. In the article, published in Counterpunch, Majerle summarises his analysis of what happened:
“I think one of the mercenary aircraft, operating around Ndola on that night, fired a tracer bullet into the fuel tanks of the Hammarskjöld plane, causing the left wing to catch on fire. Fearing that the left wing would fold up into the fuselage of the plane, the pilots did the only thing that was available to them: to configure the plane for a controlled (so to speak) crash landing in the short amount of time available to them. That action explains the 30 degrees of flaps setting on impact (nine miles out from the Ndola runway!), the relative slow speed at impact (they were just above the stall speed), and the compact crash site not consistent with Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT). The pilots had no choice but to put the plane “on the ground…now!” and that they did, skillfully, in my mind.”
Noting the DC6 Albertina would have ‘turned to mud and paste after more than fifty years under ground’, Majerle suggests investigators ‘should turn their attentions to old photographs, video, and audio recordings that might be found in archives around the world, and from these files try to reconstruct the last moments of the doomed flight.’
Note: Separate inquiries have been made into the possible reconstruction of the flight’s last moments as suggested by Majerle not deemed impossible to complete before Judge Othman must submit his Report to the UN Secretary-General.
The Counterpunch article can be read here.
12 December - British and Swedish journals examine UK and South Africa’s refusal to cooperate
3 December - UK and South Africa choose to hinder Hammarskjold inquiry
On 3 December, Miguel de Serpa Soares, UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel, updated the General Assembly on the Interim Report of Judge Othman, the Eminent Person reviewing new information on the crash of the plane carrying Dag Hammarskjöld and others.
Noting that in his previous report (October 2017), Judge Othman had stated "It is plausible that an external attack or threat may have been a cause of the crash", Mr Serpa Soares indicated that ‘a preliminary review of the information - from intelligence, security and defence archives and other sources - showed this could add to knowledge about "the context and surrounding events of 1961, especially the presence of foreign paramilitary and intelligence personnel in and around the Congo, and the capacity of armed forces present in and around the region at that time."
However, Mr Serpa Soares stressed that "the active participation of member states remains of the highest importance in our shared search for the truth in this matter." Therefore, supporters of the inquiry will be disappointed to read in the Judge’s Report to the UN Secretary-General that his initial invitation to nine Member States to ‘appoint an independent and high ranking official to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives to determine whether relevant information exists’ has been met with mixed results.
As reported in our news item (10 September), the UK and South Africa had been refusing to respond to the Judge’s invitation.
In the case of the UK, Judge Othman had earlier stated that ‘It is almost certain that the United Kingdom may hold as yet undisclosed relevant information’, but having failed to respond until beyond the Judge’s ‘closing date’ for replies, the UK did so, ‘stating that it did not intend to appoint an independent and high-ranking official.’ By way of explanation, the UK stated that it had made all information of direct value to the Investigation available in previous years or that this is available publicly. This claim will be seen as at variance with the opinion of observers and Judge Othman confirmed in his Report that he would renew his request that the UK also make an appointment in accordance with UN GA resolution 72/252.
Regarding the failure by South Africa to respond to his request, Judge Othman reported that neither UN S-G Antonio Guterres, nor the late former UN S-G Kofi Annan had managed to elicit a response, despite the evidence of documentation evaluated by the Independent Panel of Experts in 2015 and by himself in 2017.
Judge Othman reported that he was making progress with the other seven Member States he had approached, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Russia and the United States. Also, he confirmed he had extended his inquiries to include Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), both of which had responded positively and further, to Zambia, Portugal and Angola.
In concluding his Report, Judge Othman observes that ‘In the event that relevant information still cannot be disclosed, this minimum degree of cooperation should include undertaking a full review of all existing archives and records, and stating explicitly and unequivocally whether any such information has been identified. Without an explicit statement confirming the precise nature of the searches, particularly into the intelligence, security and military archives and records, an identification of whether relevant information exists, and an indication of the reasons for non-disclosure, the non-cooperation of any Member State may be seen as a failing in the international community’s collective and ongoing effort in the search for the full truth of the tragic event.’
The complete Report can be read here.
10 September - Puzzlement over UK and South Africa lack of cooperation
With only about two months before UN Secretary-General António Guterres makes his annual oral report to the General Assembly, there is puzzlement over continuing resistance by the United Kingdom and South Africa to respond to his repeated requests for cooperation on the continuing inquiry into the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.
These two countries along with Canada, Belgium, Russia, France, Sweden, Germany and the USA were requested to appoint an ‘independent and high-ranking official to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives’. With progress being made by the others, they are at best showing uncertainty on the issue. As evidence of this wider progress, the appointees for France and Belgium commenced work some months ago (News Item 28 May); Sweden’s appointee, Mathias Mossberg, a former ambassador, has recently discussed his task with the journal Dagens Nyheter (News Item 9 September) and both the USA and Russia have identified Foreign Affairs staffers now liaising with Judge Mohamed Othman, the former Tanzanian Chief Justice, the ‘eminent person’ tasked to lead the inquiry. The identity of the German appointee, already at work, is expected to be revealed soon. He will surely need to assess soon a recently published article in Lobster (winter 2018) claiming that a German built Dornier DO-28A aircraft had both the capability and flight range to attack Hammarskjöld’s DC-6 aircraft (news Item 7 September).
So why are the UK and South Africa, both seeking to present themselves as supportive UN Member States, albeit for different reasons, effectively refusing to assist the UN Secretary-General? Throughout the period of the UN inquiry, the UK refused to be co-signatory to any of the three supportive General Assembly resolutions on the issue; South Africa has not supported all.
The UK continues to claim that it has exhausted all avenues for further investigation even while new revelations indicate that cannot be so. As outlined in earlier reports, UK intelligence gathering in the field was being undertaken by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, none of whose archives have been independently examined, a key request of the UN Secretary-General. And yet more evidence of the UK’s activities at the time continues to be revealed. The reasons for the exclusive use of a private helicopter company by MI6 operative Neil Ritchie also used for planning HMG covert operations around the time of the accident remain unclear. Also unclear is how successfully both Rhodesian and UK intelligence intercepted UN communications in the Congo at the time. In his latest report (October 2017), Judge Othman wrote:
'I was also grateful to receive information from the United Kingdom and the United States that appears to establish officially for the first time (in the context of this matter) the presence of their intelligence, security and defence operatives in and around the Congo at the relevant time. Although such information does not of itself go to establishing a possible cause or causes of the crash directly, it strongly suggests that further relevant information, including potentially concerning the cause or causes of the crash, is likely to be available in the intelligence, security and defence archives of Member States.'
In the case of South Africa, it is hard to determine why the current government appears to be withholding information on the activities of the previous apartheid regime. It is alleged that a shadowy organisation, the South African Institute for Maritime Research, was set up to execute Operation Celeste, the placing of a bomb on Hammarskjöld’s plane to be activated shortly before it was due to land. This hypothesis came to public attention in the late 1990s when, during the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a file was found containing approximately a dozen documents relating to the purported Operation Celeste. The location of the original documents is now unclear, maybe embarrassing the government, but surely this still fails to explain why it refuses to cooperate with the United Nations.
It is understood Judge Othman still hopes these leading UN Member States will relax their uncooperative stance. In both countries, fresh pressure from parliamentarians can be expected. The Judge intends to complete his report in mid-2019.
9 September - Former submarine investigator comments on his role as Sweden’s independent assessor of archived material
Speaking to Jens Littorin of the Swedish journal Dagens Nyheter, former ambassador, Mathias Mossberg states “It is extremely important to reach clarity about our future, both nationally and internationally.” Mossberg, like Dag Hammarskjöld, comes from Uppsala. They went to the same school and both made careers in the Foreign Ministry.
So when Mossberg was invited by Sweden’s government to serve as its ‘independent and high ranking official’, he felt it right to accept. “For all of us working at the Foreign Ministry, Hammarskjöld was a bright star, standing for the high ideals that all of us have tried to live up to” he says. [The original article (Swedish) can be read here]
As Sweden’s choice to assist the UN investigation, he will be authorised to seek access to all relevant documents in Sweden’s archives. He joins those being appointed in several countries including the USA, Belgium, Germany and France. (The UK and South Africa have yet to respond to a similar request made by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.)
This follows Judge Othman’s conclusion in 2017 that Hammarskjöld’s plane could well have been attacked and therefore there must surely be documents in state and other archives that can help lead to the truth.
Mossberg’s first appointment to come to public attention was serving as Chief Secretary to the ‘U-Boat Commission’ in 2001. In his book on the incident ‘In Dark Waters’, he advanced the controversial theory that it was mainly NATO submarines entering Swedish waters, not those from Warsaw Pact states. Perhaps it was his ability to independently and successfully advocate this theory that led the government to invite him to examine the Hammarskjöld plane crash mystery. He maintains that an independent point of view is important and notes that the initial North Rhodesian investigations were led by the director of that colony’s civil aviation authorities. “In such cases” says Mossberg, “there’s the danger you make the goat the gardener as was the case with the first submarines investigation.”
“How do you view the fact that Sweden in the ‘90s decided to investigate the crash and appointed former Ambassador Bengt Rösiö as a one-man investigator? After all, he was deeply engaged in the case in the ‘60s.” asked Jens Littorin
“Rösiö was extremely knowledgeable about the situation in Northern Rhodesia and was the first Swedish diplomat on the site of the crash, but he was not the senior Swedish person responsible for handling the incident. He was well aware of this.”
“There are many theories on what happened to ‘Albertina’, the DC-6 that crashed, so many of them involving conspiracy. How do you think that they have been able to stick around so long?”
“Because, from the beginning, there were question marks about the handling of the investigations, from the preliminary one led by the Northern Rhodesia civil authorities and the later one by its Commission; both suspect. There were special interests driving these in a particular direction and these were resisted from the Swedish side. Both the Swedish aviation authorities and police were very concerned with developments. These question marks have never been dispelled and obviously provided fertile ground for speculation in many ways.”
“In many ways, there are similarities with the cases of Raoul Wallenberg and Olof Palme.”
“Yes, you can argue that.”
“Judge Othman points out in his first report that the Swedish Foreign Ministry in the ‘70s had learned of the report of the French diplomat Claude de Kemoularia suggesting the plane was attacked but it was not until the ‘90s when a British newspaper published this that it first reacted, setting up a new investigation. Earlier this year Dagens Nyheter published documents which strengthened the case that the government knew about this in the ‘70s and suggests it ‘put a lid on’ the matter.”
“Even so, my impression is that if progress is to be made, it will not be in Sweden where one will find the clinching information.”
Mossberg declines to comment further on information gathered but he appears to hold the view that, from the Swedish side, there were no attempts to cover up what was found. His investigations in the archives at the Foreign Ministry, the Royal Library and National Archive have led to no refusals.
“In other articles, Dagens Nyheter was able to show how British diplomats were able to influence the UN investigation into the crash, influencing Swedish witnesses. Is this something that you will look at?”
“Absolutely. This was claimed by Susan Williams, the British author of Who killed Hammarskjöld?, showing that the British were able to influence the UN Commission’s draft report. That is important.”
“How do you rate the possibility that almost 60 years after the crash, we might find something conclusive?”
“My assumption is that if progress is to be made, it will not be in Sweden that one will find the conclusive evidence. My hope is that we might find a small piece of the puzzle which will assist the UN’s investigations in other countries.”
“But there are fears that some other countries will refuse to hand over documents, especially classified ones that can solve the mystery. How do you view that possibility?”
“This will be a highly political question for some countries, whether they will agree to share the information they possess. The hope is that, with so many years passed, the political cost in sharing information is no longer critical, favouring the need to get to the true story.”
“It is believed that documents regarded as essential are kept by the American security service’s NSA archive, relating to surveillance in the region at the time of the crash. The Swedish government has announced that they have seen NSA documents which did not contain anything relevant, but critics have raised the question whether it was allowed to see all documents. How do you look at the possibility that everything relevant was shared?”
“Let’s put it this way. If there is information showing that there is nothing to worry about, then it would not be unreasonable that this information be made available.”
Mr Mossberg expects to complete his report by the end of March 2019.
7 September - German researcher suggests Dornier 28 aircraft might have downed Hammarskjold’s DC-6
Torben Gülstorff, a German freelance historian, has published a paper arguing the case that if a plane from the Katanga forces were responsible for attacking the DC-6 carrying Dag Hammarskjöld and his colleagues causing it to crash near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), then only the German-built Dornier DO 28A could have done so. The document, first published in Lobster, the online journal (Winter 2018), can be read here.
Torben Gülstorff has studied the history of West and East German activities in Africa after 1945. He supports the ongoing UN investigation led by Judge Mohamed Othman, the ‘eminent person’ tasked to lead the inquiry.
4 September - UN creates new public access archive on death of Dag Hammarskjöld
The UN Archives and Records Management (ARMS) has launched an exhaustively comprehensive website which aims to assist all interested in the life and death of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. This includes files that have been declassified since 2016, in an effort to provide researchers increased access to records about the circumstances surrounding the plane crash in which he and others died.
“We are delighted with this development,” says David Wardrop, Chairman of the United Nations Association Westminster Branch which manages and hosts the Hammarskjöld Inquiry news website. “We set up our website in 2014 because there was no other reliable source of information on developments at that time. We feared that efforts to raise the international profile of the issue would be resisted by those wishing to maintain the controlled silence that has dogged it over decades. Now the UN has set up this webpage which offers a platform to opinion as well as matters of record, we feel our early efforts have been rewarded.”
The hammarskjöldinquiry.info news pages hosted by UNA Westminster will continue ensuring that all have access to an independent platform. The page can be accessed on the UN website under Hammarskjöld around the Web (Dag Hammarskjold Plane Crash: Recent Developments).
3 September - List of countries for UN investigator to contact lengthens
Mohamed Othman, the former Tanzanian Chief Justice, the ‘eminent person’ tasked to lead the inquiry into the death of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, indicated earlier this year that his inquiries would extend beyond the nine UN Member States (UK, South Africa, Canada, Belgium, Russia, France, Sweden, Germany and the USA) hitherto contacted. Approaches have been made to the governments of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Portugal, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
On an issue which has spawned many conspiracy theories, a development which Swedish investigator Matthias Mossberg blames on shortcomings in the original investigations led by the Northern Rhodesian civil authorities (News Item 9 September), it can be expected that more will follow as Judge Othman continues to make progress.
These include that advanced by Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen, a retired colonel in the Israel Defence Forces, who argues that ‘there is another possible culprit, who has surprisingly evaded scrutiny: Gamal Abdel Nasser. The ferocious clashes between the Egyptian president and Hammarskjöld over a host of contested issues, from the Palestinian refugee problem to the Congo civil war, against the backdrop of Nasser’s hegemonic ambitions, suggest his possible implication in the secretary-general’s mysterious death.’
Writing in Middle East Forum (September 2018), Mr Bouchnik-Chen claims that ‘whilst Hammarskjöld and Nasser, then president of the short-lived Egyptian-Syrian union (1958-61), the United Arab Republic (UAR), both believed in the preservation of Congo’s territorial integrity and Katanga’s reincorporation into it….this cooperative façade hid a deeply acrimonious and distrustful relationship between the two leaders.’ The article can be read here.
Some who follow the issue closely consider this theory ‘fanciful’ and based on implications not supported in the references accompanying the article.
28 May - ‘Eminent Person’ seems confident most states will be cooperative
Reports indicate that retired Tanzanian Chief Justice Mohamed Othman, the ‘eminent person’ tasked to investigate new evidence on the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and others, is making good progress in his mission. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invited key UN Member States (Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Sweden, South Africa, France and Belgium) to appoint an ‘independent and high-ranking official to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives’. Most have now responded positively.
The Belgian government has appointed Prof Kris Quanten, Royal Military School and Guy Rapaille, Chair of the Standing Committee for the Control of Intelligence and Security Services (Committee R), the committee which in 2001 conducted the highly praised inquiry into the death of Congolese former Premier Patrice Lumumba. France has appointed Professor Justin Vaīsse, University of Science Po, and Sweden has appointed former ambassador Mathias Mossberg who has a solid background as an investigator.
It is reported that the United States, Canada and Germany have identified their preferred ‘high ranking official’ and Russia has confirmed progress in this regard. Noting the timetable that we understand Judge Othman will have set to ensure Mr Guterres can orally update the UN General Assembly in September 2018 (News Item, 26 March), this will leave stragglers South Africa and the United Kingdom which some fear are yet to respond, well ‘behind the curve’.
This list of nine ‘states of special interest’ might well be augmented to include Zambia, Portugal, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The primary value of the exercise will be that it will enable the appointees to examine state archives, including most notably those of the security and intelligence agencies – records which are ordinarily not available to others. The appointment by the Belgian government of the chair of the committee with oversight of the Belgian intelligence and security agencies seems particularly noteworthy. Member States are being held accountable for enabling thorough searches of their own states’ records.
In addition, independent observers will surely urge Judge Othman to target international corporations involved in the extractive industries at the time of the crash of Hammarskjöld’s aircraft, and their successor companies. These successor companies are among those which support key United Nations programmes including the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the UN Global Compact. Noting the strong links at the time between colonial governments and leading mining corporations, their archives might reveal important information.
Also, the nominated ‘high ranking official’ in each country might wish to inspect the archives of individuals - held by universities, local record offices and families - who appear to have been involved in some way in events relating to the crash.
We can presume the Judge will request each nominated official to report on obstructions and any denial of access to ensure complete transparency in his own consolidated report. This is due for completion in summer 2019.
26 March - Government records hold the key to Dag Hammarskjöld’s death; will they at last be opened to assist the UN inquiry?
UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres has announced the re-appointment of retired Tanzanian Chief Justice Mohammed Othman as the ‘eminent person’ tasked to investigate new evidence on the death of Dag Hammarskjöld. His mandate will last eighteen months but Mr Gutteres will update the General Assembly on progress during this calendar year.
What might be the judge’s probable line of investigation? The clearest guide is found in his previous report where he sought the ‘active cooperation’ of certain states, principally the former colonial powers, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Portugal and the chief cold war adversaries, Russia and the United States. Zambia and the DRC will surely be approached also. The Secretary-General will request each to appoint an ‘independent and high-ranking official to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives’. How these states’ nominees will be assessed as suitable is unclear.
In his previous report, Judge Othman identified as of major interest all radio intercepts and related records, especially those between Hammarskjöld’s aircraft, other aircraft, ground forces and air traffic control. What further information is found relating to the last minutes before the crash will likely prove or disprove existing hypotheses including pilot error.
Why has the Judge had such trouble finding information on an incident which was so widely reported, involved directly so many states and which had such an impact on the development of post-colonial Africa? All the decolonisation programmes of European states are well documented yet the crash of Hammarskjöld’s plane is the incident which all of these appear to share a surprising loss of records.
The plane crashed at the height of the decolonisation process. France, Belgium, Britain and Portugal all faced intense domestic pushback from powerful interests in Africa’s extraction industries and, to these, Hammarskjold was a spoiler. Might these states know what happened even though they were not party to malpractice? Their records, trimmed over the years, are remarkably sparse on the incident; likewise, Russia and the United States. Thus, the UN’s efforts to reach the truth as demanded by the several resolutions endorsed by the UN General Assembly continue to be stymied.
Yet Judge Othman appears sure that states have more to share. In his last report, he wrote “in the light of the analysis of the present report, it appears to me to be reasonable to conclude that the burden of proof has now shifted to Member States to show that they have conducted a full review of records and archives in their custody or possession, including those that remain classified, for potentially relevant information.” And this is no vain effort to be seen doing the right thing. He continues “Far from approaching the possible limit of our understanding, the deeper we have gone into the searches, the more relevant information has been found.”
The answers are surely there, in the records of a small number of states. In December 2017, the General Assembly, the world’s most representative sounding board, agreed that these should show greater transparency in their responses to Judge Othman and help end this unnecessarily long saga. Also, the families of those who died in the crash alongside Hammarskjöld deserve closure.
24 December - UN General Assembly agrees to extend investigation into plane crash, with later budgetary restraints
The UN General Assembly has agreed to support the resolution presented by Sweden and about one hundred co-signatory Member States which will ensure the continuation of the investigation led by Judge Othman Chande and that he will be reappointed. In the face of calls for budgetary restraints throughout the UN system, the Fifth Committee (Finance) agreed a budget for his continuing work together with his Special Assistant and also funding for management costings (report and translation into the six UN recognised languages) for the biennium 2018–2019. The Fifth Committee agreed the sum of US$357,300 but this was later reduced by 10 per cent ($35,700) to $321,600.
21 December - Le Monde reviews inquiry progress, noting lapses in French support
In its latest analysis, the French journal Le Monde describes events leading to the ‘mysterious crash of a Swedish DC-6’ and concludes with comments from the French ambassador to the UN. The report written by Marie Bourreau, its UN Correspondent, and Anne-Françoise Hivert, based in Malmö, Sweden, can be read here. The following translation should be used a guide only.
Le Monde, 21 December This is a story from another time, an enigma for over fifty years: what happened to the Albertina, the DC-6 operated by theSwedish Transair company, on September 18, 1961, in Zambia? Carrying sixteen passengers, it should have landed shortly after midnight in Ndola, a small northern town but never reached its destination. At 3am, the airport manager finally turned off the lights on the airstrip and went to bed. Strangely, it took 7 hours for the search to be launched. The rescue arrived at the scene of the crash, 18 km away, just after 3pm. Next to the plane wreckage lay the body of a leading figure in international diplomacy, Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN Secretary-General since 1953.
At the time, the 56-year-old Swede was engaged in negotiations on the future of Katanga, the rich mining province in the south of the Congo. It had been a year since Katanga, led by Moise Tshombe with the support of the former colonial power Belgium, seceded, provoking clashes with Congolese national forces. The tension was such that, throughout the country, 15,000 peacekeepers had been deployed. On 13 September 1961, UN troops launched an operation to end the secession but with the offensive turning into a disaster for the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld flew from Leopoldville in the Congo to Ndola where he planned to negotiate a ceasefire with Tshombe.
Pilot error or attack? Fifty-six years after the event, the Stockholm government demands to know the truth. On December 23, supported by more than 80 countries, Sweden will present to the UN General Assembly its resolution calling for the cooperation of member states, including the opening of their archives, as well as the appointment of a special rapporteur for each country likely to have information, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Russia, South Africa and France. "No stone must be left unturned," said Sweden's ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog. According to him, time is running out, with witnesses getting older. Although the text is non-binding, he hopes that "political pressure" will push states to cooperate fully to "seal this wound".
For decades, Sweden and the United Nations had been satisfied with the findings of the three official investigations carried out by the UN and the (then) Rhodesian authorities in 1961 and 1962. Two failed to determine the cause of the crash; the third concluded it was pilot error. A new UN inquiry, led by Tanzanian Judge Mohamed Chande Othman, published in October, considered it plausible that an external attack or threat was a cause of the crash.
The DC-6 pilot was Per-Erik Hallonquist. Along with his co-pilots, he was suspected of drinking alcohol and taking drugs before take-off, a claim refuted by the autopsy. His son, Sven-Goran, ten years old at the time, remembers that his mother never wanted to tell him about it: "She did not recover from the shock of the tragedy and the theories in circulation, whether true or false, because until recently we had no access to the original documents.” For him, everything changed after his meeting with Bjorn Virving, the son of a Swedish Transair executive sent to Ndola to investigate the crash. Upon his father’s death, Mr Virving inherited the records and started his own investigations. "In these documents,” says Sven-Goran Hallonquist, a physicist, “I found a description of the trajectory of the aircraft. I am a scientist. I need solid evidence. However, the way the aircraft makes its approach, then makes a violent turn before turning towards the airport, does not correspond to a normal flight pattern. It makes me think that it was not just an accident."
In fact, the threat of an attack on Dag Hammarskjöld had been mentioned in the autumn of 1961. "He was about to accomplish something when they killed him" said former US President Harry Truman to reporters on the day after the tragedy. It must be said that the Swede had made many enemies in Africa. In those early days of "preventive diplomacy", this man in his fifties and later described by President Kennedy as "the greatest statesman of our century" was irritating the colonial powers by upsetting Western domination of international affairs, and by setting himself up as an ‘independent mediator’, fighting for peace and defending the wider right to self-determination.
Learning of his anticipated arrival in Ndola on September 17, 1961, thousands of Zambian and Congolese independence activists converged on the airport to greet him. His nephew Knut Hammarskjöld, himself a diplomat, was able to meet several of these witnesses when visiting the site to identify the body. Their stories obsessed him until his death in 2012: "He realised that strange things were happening," says his widow, Inga-Lill Hammarskjöld. People came to tell him what they had been cross-examined but nobody listened to them as they were black, living in segregationist Southern Africa. "
Explosion on board
Zambian charcoal burners who were the first to raise the alarm on the morning of the 18th, and Mama Chibesa Kankasa, a leading figure in the struggle for independence in Zambia, claim to have seen several planes in the sky that night: the Albertina and also one or two smaller ones. They also remember a striking flash on the DC-6 shortly before it crashed. These descriptions are consistent with the report of the only survivor, the American Sergeant Harold Julien, chief of the UN security. Before dying in hospital six days later, according to his nurse, he reported "explosions" on board.
These various testimonies were ignored for years until the British historian Susan Williams gave them valence in her thorough investigation, published in 2011. While preparing a book on the role of white supremacists in Africa during decolonisation, she discovered documents on the destiny of Albertina. "I started by rejecting these allegations, which seemed to me to be the product of conspiracy theories," she says. But she could not turn away from it, like all others who take an interest in the affair.
Hans Kristian Simensen, a Norwegian living in Göthenburg, Sweden, is one of these. Fascinated by the subject, this eccentric man finds himself in possession of the personal archives of the Norwegian general Bjorn Egge, a UN officer stationed in the Congo in 1961. Until his death in 2007, Egge had tried to discover the truth about the crash, convinced it was a plot. He suspected Western mercenaries recruited by Moise Tshombe to have played a key role in the operation. Among them, deceased former French mercenary Colonel Roger Trinquier and former Foreign Legionnaire Roger Faulques, newly arrived from Algeria. Their mission, according to Susan Williams, was to look after French interests as, in the middle of the cold war, Paris was worried about the growing influence of the USSR and the United States in black Africa. The mercenaries, Susan Williams explains, "led the war against the UN in the Congo", with, she is convinced, "the assent of Jacques Foccart", the all-powerful "Mr. Africa" for General de Gaulle.
Like a detective, Williams, a historian, leads the investigation. She met former US Navy commander Charles Southall who in 1961 was stationed at the NSA listening station near Nicosia, Cyprus. On the night of the tragedy, his boss invited him and several colleagues to come to the office. "Something interesting is going to happen," he warned. Shortly after midnight, he made them listen to a recording. One of the officers present recognised the voice of a Belgian mercenary pilot: "Yes, it is the Transair DC-6. I’ve hit it. There are flames! It’s going down. It’s crashing” [text here from Who Killed Hammarskjöld (Susan Williams)]
In 1967, Claude de Kémoularia, Dag Hammarskjöld's personal assistant, then France's ambassador to the United Nations, collected the testimony of a former Belgian mercenary, who called himself "Beukels" and who claimed to have shot down the DC-6 by accident. According to him, he set out to force the plane to fly to another airfield where leaders of the Belgian industrial group Union Minière were hoping to convince the UN Secretary-General to accept the secession of Katanga. His warning shot had hit the DC-6, causing its crash.
The forgotten witnesses
When Susan Williams published Who Killed Hammarskjöld in August 2011, she hoped her revelations about the forgotten witnesses would relaunch the investigation but the Swedish government was turning a deaf ear. A month later, at a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, former Swedish Archbishop Karl Gustav Hammar vilified "the inaction of the Swedish authorities", denouncing "the scandal of a botched investigation." His sermon had its planned effect. "People came to see me later to discourage me from continuing”, says the former prelate today. “This only reinforced my suspicions."
It was then that the English parliamentarian, Lord Lea, fascinated by the case, invited Hans Kristian Simensen and Susan Williams to join an organising committee, and asked four independent jurists to examine the evidence gathered over the years. In order to finance their work, the former Archbishop persuaded his friend, the internationally known detective novelist Henning Mankell, to contribute nearly 20,000 euros.
One of the jurists, Sweden's Hans Corell, a former UN legal advisor, was initially sceptical but ended up convinced. According to him, he has no doubts that the answers can be found in the archives of the intelligence services of certain UN member states. For the first time, the United States and Britain have confirmed to the Tanzanian judge Othman that they hold transcripts of recorded transmissions on the night of the tragedy. But they have not made these public. "Why, if they are innocent?” asks Hans Corell.
France, reported in the Tanzanian magistrate's report as failing to respond to a request for documents likely to advance the case, asserts that it is "very committed to ensuring that all light is shed on this tragedy", according to its ambassador to the United Nations, François Delattre. But is this to the point of opening the archives of its foreign intelligence services? A French official recalls that the Quai d'Orsay, and in particular the directors of the archives have already done some research in 2015 which was not conclusive.
30 October - Dag Hammarskjöld Collection in Royal Swedish Library inscribed on UNESCO Memory of the World International Register
The International Advisory Committee of UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme has recommended the inscription of the Dag Hammarskjöld Collection in the Royal Swedish Library amongst the 78 new nominations for the Memory of the World International Register. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, stated, "It is my deep and firm conviction that the Memory of the World Programme should be guided in its work to preserve documentary heritage and memory for the benefit of present and future generations in the spirit of dialogue, international cooperation and mutual understanding, building peace in the minds of women and men."
“It is a great pleasure and at the same time right that Dag Hammarskjöld´s Archive at The Royal Library has now been inscribed in the Memory of the World Programme” said Swedish National Librarian Gunilla Herdenberg. Mats Djurberg, Secretary-General of the Swedish UNESCO Council added “Dag Hammarskjöld´s Archive is crucial for us to understand the world, remember history and learn from it."
The archive covers an important time of UN´s history, containing UN-related documents, manuscripts, letters and Dag’s personal papers regarding world politics. The collection, mostly in English, extends to about 45 shelf metres.
27 October - UN’s Eminent Person rejects approach from Danish film maker
The UN’s ‘eminent person’, Judge Mohamed Othman, the former Tanzanian Chief Justice tasked to review both old and newly uncovered evidence, has rejected the offer made by Danish film maker Peter Engel to provide new evidence on the condition that he maintain strict confidentiality and not disclose this in his report. The Swedish journal Dagens Nyheter (29 October) reports that Mr Engel’s proposed film ‘Cold Case’ with budget of over 10 million Swedish kronor and with funders in several European countries, will be largely based on information collected by researcher Göran Björkdahl.
"We really appreciate Othman’s work and he has helped us with some research but he must understand that these are two separate projects. We have spent eight years on this and we are responsible for our investors to make sure they get a good movie”, says Engel. "We have given him (Othman) a lot and we have said he can get everything but only under certain circumstances, otherwise the movie is destroyed. It's quite simple” he says.
However, Judge Othman, states in his report (paras 144-145) “Given that I have received no actual information, I am of course not able to make an assessment of whether the information might or might not hold any probative value. This notwithstanding, I mention the matter in the interest of full disclosure. I also note that the individual stated that State television companies in Denmark, Norway and Sweden have funded their research. This, if true, may be cause for concern, as it would run contrary to a transparent and independent search for the truth. I suggest that this may be a matter for the relevant Member States to follow up.”
25 October - ‘Eminent Person’s’ report recommends continuity, more transparency from Member States and declassification of relevant UN records.
“Far from approaching the possible limit of our understanding, the deeper we have gone into the
searches, the more relevant information has been found.”
With these words, the UN’s ‘eminent person’, Judge Mohamed Othman, the former Tanzanian Chief Justice tasked to review both old and newly uncovered evidence, alerts those UN Member States, hitherto slothful in their response, that the UN’s pursuit of the truth will continue. For his latest report (25 October 2017), Mr Othman sought further information from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa, the UK and the USA. Some states proved more helpful than others and with much scope for further work, on the UN’s part and on theirs, he observes that
“in the light of the analysis of the present report, it appears to me to be reasonable to conclude
that the burden of proof has now shifted to Member States to show that they have conducted a
full review of records and archives in their custody or possession, including those that remain
classified, for potentially relevant information.”
The Swedish Mission to the UN has announced that it intends to pursue the matter and we should expect a supportive resolution in the General Assembly soon.
In his previous report, as Chair of the UN-appointed Independent Panel of Experts, Mr Othman reached impasses when seeking information from the USA and the UK. Both countries, deeply involved diplomatically in the Congo at the time of the plane crash, had provided him with low-value responses as reported in HammarskjöldInquiry.info (25 August 2016).
His latest report shows both countries more forthcoming. Whereas the US previously indicated that ‘the USAF had no such records’ of its planes at Ndola airport at the time of Hammarskjöld’s arrival, it now acknowledges they were there; maybe as many as five. And an internal report at the time that the plane ‘may have been shot down’, and another mentioning a ‘flash in the air’ were indeed passed on immediately to the White House, the Secretary of Defence, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and CIA. Judge Othman notes that ‘a first impression of the United States Ambassador in the Congo was that the crash had resulted from hostile action.’
Also, the US has not denied the claim made in the previous UN report that its NSA had covertly monitored communications sent from the CX-52 cryptographic machine used by Hammarskjöld during his visit to the Congo, and shared the intelligence with the CIA, GCHQ and possibly others.
With regard to the UK, Mr Othman notes that documents it has released to him refer to the presence of MI5 and MI6 operatives in the region and from these, we learn that GCHQ had successfully compromised the Rhodesian Federal intelligence network which, working for a government hostile to the UN, should surely lead to important relevant information - but not yet. Records show that UK diplomats sought to influence the thrust of the UN’s final report (1962), steering its conclusions on the cause of the crash towards pilot error. Finally, the extraordinary delay by the Rhodesian authorities in setting out to locate the aircraft remains a mystery. If the lone survivor of the crash had been treated sooner, might he have survived?
By contract, Mr Othman has congratulated Belgium on the transparency of its reply. However, France, Russia and South Africa have yet to do so and more countries might be requested to review their archives, he suggests. These include Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India and Portugal.
Mr Othman’s recommendations are firstly, that the UN follow up on discrete unfulfilled aspects of the current inquiry; secondly, that relevant Member States each ‘appoint an independent and high-ranking official to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives to determine whether relevant information exists’; and thirdly, the UN review its own specific records and archives for possible declassification. (In endorsing the report, UN Secretary-General António Gutteres has instructed that this recommendation be taken forward).
Finally, to give focus to the continuing process, Mr Othman advises the appointment of a specific person or persons mandated on an ongoing basis to receive and collate new information in order to transmit it to the Secretary-General.
24 October - Nobel Peace Centre marks UN Day with Hammarskjöld lectureSpeaking at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo to mark United Nations Day, the American author Dr Roger Lipsey titled his lecture on Dag Hammarskjöld ‘The Practice of Peace’. In this, he drew on Hammarskjöld’s observations during his tenure at UN Secretary-General, especially his comments on the qualities needed in the search for peace. Dr Lipsey, author of Hammarskjöld: A Life, (University of Michigan Press, 2013), the first major biography of Hammarskjöld in forty years, has spoken widely on Hammarskjöld’s life and is a popular speaker at the UN System Staff College. Dr Lipsey’s lecture can be read here.
21 October - Hammarskjöld plane crash: Israeli demands for transparency from Mossad and Foreign ministry
Eitay Mack, an Israeli activist and attorney who led the fight to expose Israeli arms sale to Burma, has filed a petition demanding that Mossad also opens its archives on matters relating to Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. He notes that from the early 1960s, Israel forged an alliance with General Mobutu, then the Congo’s chief of staff and defence minister, later to become President and argues that Israel put great faith in him and his military forces. The petition has been filed with the Israeli Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs which, in reply, claim they have no relevant documents.
Although the activists recognise there is no clear evidence that Israel was directly involved in his death, in the light of its interests, involvement and massive military activities in nearby states at that time (Congo, Cameroon, Rhodesia and Portugal’s nearby colonies), and Hammarskjöld’s key role in ending colonialism, they feel there may well be documents still held by Israel’s intelligence services which might help solve this mystery.
This news item is adapted from Richard Silverstein’s report in Tikun Alam (17 October 2017)
20 October - Belgian MP presses government to display greater transparency
Belgian MP Benoit Hellings tabled questions to the Deputy Premier Didier Reynders, and to the Minister of Justice, Mr Koen Geens, concerning the pending publication of Judge Mohamed Othman’s latest report on the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and others in 1961. He referred to a news item in Le Figaro (28 September) which claimed sight of a leaked copy of the report and argued that Belgium could only but help raise its international status by displaying total transparency through full cooperation with the ongoing UN investigation. The Ministers responded that the UN Secretary-General’s recommendations to the UN General Assembly which would include the report would be published on 25 October.
See question to M. Reynders here and to Mr Geens here, both in French.
5 April - UN’s ‘Eminent Person’ reaches out to all who can assist him
Mohamed Othman who when Chief Justice of Tanzania led the UN’s independent panel reviewing new information on the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, and now appointed the UN’s eminent person’ to progress that initiative, has started work.
Besides reviewing and assessing the probative value of new information, he will be welcoming guidance in determining the scope that any further inquiry or investigation should take and in drawing conclusions from the investigations already conducted. Mr. Othman will report to the Secretary-General on his work in July this year.
UNA Westminster Branch, which hosts this website, urges all who believe they can assist Mr Othman to contact his office, first providing a brief outline summarising the new information. Messages should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
8 February - UN appoints Tanzanian ‘eminent person’ to review potential new information
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Tanzania's former Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman to review potential new information, including from South Africa, on the 1961 plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. This decision follows the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 23 December.
Chief Justice Othman is not new to this challenge. In 2015, he led the UN’s independent panel reviewing new information about the crash. The panel's report (News Item 20 July 2015) discounted claims that Hammarskjöld was assassinated after surviving the crash but pointed to new information about a possible aerial attack or interference.
UNA Westminster has closely followed developments on this issue since the publication of report of the Hammarskjöld Commission in 2013.
31 December - “Who Killed Hammarskjöld?” goes into reprintThe book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, The Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa by Susan Williams, which triggered international interest in how Dag Hammarskjöld and his colleagues died is now in reprint. It features an epilogue Journey for Truth – from 2011 to 2016, co-written by Henning Melber, David Wardrop and Susan Williams. This provides new readers with an update on all related developments including the UN Panel’s investigation. (Hurst, 978-1-84904-802-6 • 320pp• £14.99)
29 December - Swedish-led Resolution adopted by UN General Assembly
The UN General Assembly has adopted the Swedish resolution requesting the appointment of an eminent person to review and assess any new information that might throw light on the plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjöld and his colleagues. The adoption of the resolution, co-sponsored by eighty-five Member States, followed the decision of the UN’s 5th Committee which advises on administrative and budgetary questions to allocate US$326,300 for its implementation.
The search for and appointment of the required ‘eminent person’ will now commence. “This development shows that the UN under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remains determined to pursue the principle of transparency in this matter.” said David Wardrop, Chairman of the United Nations Association Westminster Branch. “An African choice for the role of ‘eminent person’ would be admirable. Dag Hammarskjöld’s flight to Ndola was so closely linked to the bitterly resisted decolonisation process, the injustices of that period still resonate today.”
6 December - Sweden, urging action and transparency, maintains pressure on UN and key Member States
In presenting Sweden’s draft Resolution on the investigation into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those accompanying him, Ambassador Olof Skoog placed urgent emphasis on the first of its six operative clauses. This requests the UN Secretary-General to appoint an eminent person to review any potential new information, including that which ‘may be available from Member States and to draw conclusions from the investigations already conducted.’
Other operative clauses urge all Member States to release any relevant records in their possession. Observers believe the United Nations secretariat was disappointed with the responses of certain Member States to its earlier requests for information (news item, 25 August) and the resolution duly notes that any such records will have been held for ‘more than fifty years’, inviting speculation on what can possibly be their continuing value to national security.
The UN’s Fifth Committee which handles administrative and budgetary affairs will review the programme budget implication in the resolution and, upon approval, its adoption is expected in late December. The resolution also seeks the General Assembly to decide that the issue be added to the provisional agenda for its 2017-18 session. Sweden, which re-joins the Security Council in January 2017, has indicated that it intends to encourage and promote added transparency in the UN’s workings at all levels.
28 September - “Speaking truth to power” and new questions on US policy on assassination
The online journal The Conversation which sets out to combine academic rigour with journalistic flair has recently published Speaking truth to power: The killing of Dag Hammarskjöldand the cover-up co-written by Dr Henning Melber and Dr Susan Williams, author of Who killed Hammarskjöld? They review recent developments and praise Ban Ki-moon for his ‘courage, dignity and humanity’ and hope that his successor will follow the same path, displaying the same integrity and determination.
A few days later, The Conversation published The US has blurred the lines on assassination for decades in which Dr Luca Trenta, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Swansea University, chronicles the development of US policy on assassination. He notes that ‘while the US government’s Executive Order 12333 prohibits any form of assassination, a series of targets has been identified as permissible.’ In the light of the government’s aggressive use of drones, he fears that policy has become too blurred and ‘so narrow as to be, perhaps, meaningless.’
19 September - “Let us re-open Dag Hammarskjöld Inquiry” says Zambian MinisterSpeaking during a solemn and moving ceremony at the crash site to mark 55 years since Dag Hammarskjöld was killed, Mr Lusambo, Copperbelt Minister in the Zambian government, said his country joins calls that the cause of the mysterious plane crash be established. He urged that the testimonies from some eyewitnesses in Twapia Compound, some still alive, should be considered in order to bring closure to the tragedy.
18 September - Veteran Swedish UN peacekeepers in Uppsala mark the anniversaryInga-Lill Hammarskjöld, widow of Dag Hammarskjöld’s nephew, Knut, led a ceremony at the grave in Uppsala to mark the 55th anniversary of the plane crash.
17 September - From Dag Hammarskjöld to Zlatan Ibrahimović
In May this year, the Swedish government aired its excellent three-minute film celebrating its 70 years as a UN member. From Dag Hammarskjöld to Zlatan Ibrahimović sets out to chronicle Sweden’s long commitment to the UN. We apologise for missing this at the time!
14 September - Who killed UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld? by François SoudanThe article Qui a tué Dag Hammarskjöld lorsqu’il était secrétaire général de l’ONU? by François Soudan in Jeune Afrique marks the anniversary of Hammarskjöld’s death and refers back to the magazine’s first issue in October 1960 which featured a profile of Hammarskjöld. An English translation can be read here.
8 September - UK diplomat present at Ndola still blames pilot error, Hammarskjöld Inquiry commissioners point to UN Panel’s new revelations and New York Times weighs in also
UK diplomat present at Ndola still blames pilot error, Hammarskjöld Inquiry commissioners point to UN Panel’s new revelations and New York Times weighs in alsoFollowing publication in The Guardian of letters from Dr Mandy Banton, Dr Henning Melber and David Wardrop, (all 29 August), Sir Brian Unwin, Private Secretary to Lord Alport, British High Commissioner in Salisbury, Rhodesia at the time of the crash, has shared his recollection of events at the time in a letter to The Guardian (31 August). Sir Brian reconfirmed his view that pilot error was to blame. His letter prompted one from Justice Richard Goldstone, a member of the Commission of Inquiry (2 September). These letters can be read here.
Separately, the New York Times published an op-ed written by Sir Stephen Sedley, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry, and followed this with an article by its reporter Alan Cowell.
3 September - Kitwe, Ndola and Lusaka prepare to commemorate 55th anniversary of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
Kitwe, Ndola and Lusaka prepare to commemorate 55th anniversary of Dag Hammarskjöld’s deathThe commemoration consists of three parts; a seminar at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe on Saturday 17 September, the official Dag Hammarskjöld Commemoration at the Dag Hammarskjold Memorial, the crash site, in Ndola on Sunday 18 September and a concluding seminar in Lusaka on Monday 19 September. The complete programme can be read here.
1 September - ‘International Solidarity, the Godmother to the United Nations’ suggest Henning Melber
‘International Solidarity, the Godmother to the United Nations’ suggest Henning Melber
In his address to the International SEF Workshop in Berlin titled ‘Solidarity: Yesterday’s ideal or emerging Key norm?’, Dr Henning Melber, , Director Emeritus, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, has argued that representatives of UN Member States, when claiming to speak on behalf of “We The Peoples”, as the Preamble of the Charter begins, should find such courage and return to a true meaning of solidarity, being the solidarity of people with people in their fight for human dignity and a worthy life free from fear, “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.”
1 September - The Conversation publishes edited extract from Spies in the Congo
The Conversation publishes edited extract from Spies in the Congo
Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War II, written by Susan Williams (author of Who killed Hammarskjöld) has been reviewed widely, including here by The Economist. In revealing an extraordinary story in its own right, it explains how the Cold War was inevitably going to interfere with efforts, however well-intentioned and well-planned, to bring about peaceful decolonisation in the Congo.
The review in Mondiaal Nieuws (Belgium) can be read here.
25 August - US and UK responses to UN inquiry prompt sceptical letters to The Guardian (UK)
US and UK responses to UN inquiry prompt sceptical letters to The Guardian (UK)
In their published letters in The Guardian (29 August), Dr Henning Melber, Director Emeritus, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation; Dr Mandy Banton, Senior research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London; and David Wardrop, Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch all drew attention to various shortcomings in the responses given by the United States and United Kingdom to the UN’s Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs.
22 August - Henning Melber points to Hammarskjöld’s courageous mediation skills during the Cold War
Henning Melber points to Hammarskjöld’s courageous mediation skills during the Cold WarDr Henning Melber, Director Emeritus, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, reflects on Dag Hammarskjöld’s legacy, from the Suez crisis to the Congo conflict and even though there was no happy ending, a lasting legacy. Read here.
18 August - Congolese Civil Society of South Africa spotlights link between Japan and the D.R.C.
Congolese Civil Society of South Africa spotlights link between Japan and the D.R.C.
At a conference titled ‘The Missing Link: Peace and Security Surrounding Uranium’, organised by the Congolese Civil Society of South Africa (CCSSA) linked Japan and the Democratic Republic of Congo as the uranium used to build the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima came from the Shinkolobwe mine in the province of Katanga. Susan Williams, author of Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War II who was invited to contribute to the conference, reports that the event was ‘packed with Congolese, including families with children, and other members of the public. A number of people hailed from the area around Likasi, the nearest town to Shinkolobwe.’ Her report can be read here.
17 August - Ban Ki-moon determined that his pursuit for the truth should continue
Ban Ki-moon determined that his pursuit for the truth should continue
In his letter to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made proposals which set out to ensure that his efforts to seek the truth behind Dag Hammarskjöld’s death are continued after his term of office ends in December. He has proposed to the General Assembly that it may consider first appointing, or authorizing him to ‘appoint, an eminent person or persons to review the potential new information, including that which may be available from South Africa. Thereupon, the eminent person or persons would be in a position to determine the scope that any further inquiry or investigation should take’.
Observers believe that this course of action has been triggered by disappointment with the quality of responses given by key UN member states to questions posed them by Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs.
In his letters to the Permanent Representatives of Belgium, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom, Mr Soares set out specific requests for information. In the case of the UK, he invited assurance that its definition of ‘all relevant government departments’ covered all security and intelligence agencies. In his reply, the UK Permanent Representative declined that invitation, re-iterating his governments’ position seven months prior. One may ask whether, more than seventy years on, can the UN’s straightforward query really be considered counter to the UK’s national security?
In the case of the US, Mr Soares asked the Permanent Representative to explain the presence of US Air Force Dakotas at Ndola airport at the time of Hammarskjöld’s intended arrival. In his reply, she claimed ‘the USAF has not found any documents or information regarding the presence of any US Air Force aircraft there’, despite copious evidence including witness reports by RAF personnel. One can ask why the USAF, not the US government broadly, was charged with this reply.
The Secretary-Generals’ report, complete with the letters from Miguel de Serpa Soares and the replies received can be read here.
10 August - Candidates for next Secretary-General asked for their stance on Ban Ki-moon’s new initiative
Candidates for next Secretary-General asked for their stance on Ban Ki-moon’s new initiative
UNA Westminster has submitted the following question to all candidates seeking election for the post of UN Secretary-General:-
Ban Ki-moon has shown great courage in pursuing efforts to establish the truth on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. Although the SG’s initiative is supported by most Member States, some powerful states have proved reluctant to release relevant information. Will you guarantee to continue the SG’s courageous work with similar perseverance?
We have received the following responses and have followed up our original request.
"I would certainly continue. I emphasize that the circumstances of the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary - General, have to be fully investigated and understood.”
Dr Igor Lukšić
“In all of our work, Dag Hammarskjöld remains an example for courageous, principled action. Thus, if elected as next Secretary-General, I will support the continuation of investigation on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death, as an act of justice to all those who have sacrificed their lives while on duty for the United Nations, through cooperation with all concerned states”
30 June - UN sets about establishing ‘central archival holding’ on relevant information
UN sets about establishing ‘central archival holding’ on relevant information
UN sets about establishing ‘central archival holding’ on relevant information
The UN’s Office for Legal Affairs has started is programme to contact institutions requesting them to identify documents and other materials which they might hold which could contribute to the proposed central archive. Individuals will be contacted later. This follows the assessment made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon following receipt of the report of the panel he set up to ‘examine and assess new information relating to the airplane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld and others died’. At the time, the UN argued that a central archive would ‘enable access by the UN and other authorised parties to ensure their continued and enhanced preservation and access, even if access is only possible to an ‘eminent person or persons whom the General Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.’
The request is accompanied by a Records Inventory template document which proposes submissions should feature fields of date range, security classifications, format (digital or physical) and its availability, electronically or to the public.
22 May - Swedish Radio broadcast reviews speculation on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
Swedish Radio broadcast reviews speculation on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
The Swedish Radio broadcast, narrated by Karin Hållsten, featured archive reports made at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death as well as a later interview with the late Sture Linnér who led the UN’s operation in Leopoldville. Also interviewed for the programme were Susan Williams, author of Who killed Hammarskjöld?, Bengt Rösiö, Sweden’s ambassador to the Congo at the time, Jan Eliasson, the current UN Deputy Secretary-General, Björn Virving, author of Termitstacken, Sven-Göran Hallonquist, son of the plane’s pilot, Captain Pär-Erik Hallonquist and well as Timothy Kankasa and Dickson Buleni, both witnesses and Mama Kankasa, Timothy’s mother.
17 May - Remarkable Hammarskjöld archive links to this website
Remarkable Hammarskjöld archive links to this websiteWe have now added the remarkable archive relating to Dag Hammarskjöld’s death maintained by Björn Virving, son of Bo Virving, who was Technical Manager of Transair, the owner of the aircraft which carried Dag Hammarskjöld from Leopoldville in the Congo to Ndola in Northern Rhodesia. Bo Virving participated in the investigation of the crash and retained much documentation, some classified until recently. He died in 1982 and Björn inherited the archive. He has translated his book TERMITSTACKEN (Swedish) into English and the book in both languages together with the remarkable archive can be accessed through the links page (see TERMITSTACKEN).
8 May - Sweden marks Peace Day, discusses Dag Hammarskjöld career in the service of peace
Sweden marks Peace Day, discusses Dag Hammarskjöld career in the service of peace
The City of Gothenburg marked the 71st Peace in Europe Day marking the end of World War 2 with a large meeting held in the Domkyrkan, Gothenburg cathedral. The meeting was organised by the Church of Sweden which sought to show examples in the service of peace, especially by Dag Hammarskjöld, former UN Secretary-General. The meeting was moderated by Anders Franck, Programme Director, Gothenburg University who was joined by former Archbishop of Sweden KG Hammar, and independent researcher Hans Kristian Simensen, both former trustees of the Hammarskjöld Commission. Anders Franck asked each "what ways did you go to find Hammarskjöld and what is your relationship to him?" Their discussion can be read here.
31 March - Seminar organised by Dag Today confirms revival of interest for Hammarskjöld in Italy
Seminar organised by Dag Today confirms revival of interest for Hammarskjöld in Italy
31 March 2016 On November 16, 2015 the Italian Dag Hammarskjöld Association, Dag Today, held a seminar on Hammarskjöld’s thought, personal ethics and political and diplomatic action, under the patronage of the Embassy of Sweden, the Fondazione Centro per la Riforma dello Stato and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala.
In the seminar, it was emphasised that the thought and the actions of the Swedish statesman still have a great weight and still carry an important message, especially for those who pursue peace and development in a violent and divided world.
The meeting, which marked a revival of the interest for Hammarskjöld in Italy, was held under the banner of one of Hammarskjöld’s most important and famous phrases: “Only he deserves power who every day justifies it” which summarises well his ideals and practice both as politician and as Secretary General of the United Nations.
A summary in English of the meeting can be read here.
A full report in Italian can be read here.
The Dag Today website of the Italian Dag Hammarskjöld Association is now linked to this site.
30 March - Hammarskjöld plane crash: “We are doing everything to find out what happened” says Ban Ki moon in Sweden
Hammarskjöld plane crash: “We are doing everything to find out what happened” says Ban Ki moon in Sweden
30 March 2016 The annual Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture titled ‘Evolving Threats, Timeless Values: The United Nations In A Changing Global Landscape’ has been delivered in Stockholm City Hall by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon at the invitation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Uppsala University.
The Secretary-General opened his address by describing Dag Hammarskjöld as a Swede through and through, but that he also belonged to the world. “I feel both privileged and humbled to be serving in the role he once filled so masterfully.”
He also referred to current developments in the search for the truth on how the plane carrying Hammarskjöld and others crashed near Ndola in 1961. “In all of our work, Dag Hammarskjöld remains a touchstone for courageous, principled action. When I visited his gravesite in Uppsala on the 50th anniversary of his death, I laid a wreath in honour of his life and reflected on the timeless example of his service. It is in recognition of that devotion that the medal we give to the families of fallen peacekeepers is named in his honour. Hammarskjöld was a private person who lived the most public of lives. We know, for example, that he carried a UN Charter with him at all times. We also know some of his innermost thoughts, as set out in ‘Markings’, his own personal code of conduct.
But there is one thing about Hammarskjöld that remains a mystery: the circumstances leading to his death -- and the deaths of those who accompanied him. We are doing everything to find out what happened” he said.
“Last year, a UN panel considered new information, including by interviewing eyewitnesses who had not been interviewed before in official inquiries. The Panel concluded that some of the new information was sufficient to warrant further consideration of whether aerial attack or other interference may have caused the crash.
I want to use this platform today to urge Member States with intelligence or other material in their archives to provide that information without delay. We must do everything to finally establish the facts and get to the bottom of this tragedy once and for all.”
The full address can be read here.
21 March - ‘A Solemn Duty’: Dag Hammarskjold and Conflict in the Congo’
Seminar held at the School of Advanced Study, University of London
‘A Solemn Duty’: Dag Hammarskjold and Conflict in the Congo’
Seminar held at the School of Advanced Study, University of London
21 March 2016 At the meeting with its title referencing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon’s declared commitment following the findings of a UN panel of experts, speakers updated the audience on his continuing efforts to uncover all available information on the fatal crash of the plane carrying his predecessor in 1961.
In opening the meeting, David Wardrop, Chairman of the United Nations Association Westminster Branch, chronicled the collective efforts by individuals worldwide in raising international awareness of the issue. This pressure encouraged the UN General Assembly to unanimously adopt two Resolutions which successfully triggered firstly the appointment of the UN Panel charged to examine existing information and secondly to support the Secretary-General pursue the matter. These efforts are fully reported in the news pages of this website.
Professor Henning Melber, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, explained how Hammarskjöld’s commitment to global governance, social justice and international solidarity was guided by strong personal integrity and solid values. “Despite his failures and setbacks, his brand of diplomacy offers important lessons for mediators today”, Professor Melber stated. He reminded the audience that Hammarskjöld had been widely praised for the UN’s role in the Suez crisis of 1956 but that the Congo crisis, resulting in the largest UN peace operation to date and continuing today, presented different challenges. He quoted one observer ‘the Congo was simultaneously a hotbed of inter-African intrigue, a playground for the superpowers and a turning point in the decolonization process.’ Professor Melber explained how Hammarskjöld tackled his mediation task against this background, concluding that as the world’s highest international civil servant to assume global leadership, he set standards that have lost none of their value and relevance. Professor Melber’s paper Dag Hammarskjöld and Conflict Mediation (February 2016) covers his address more fully.
Dr Roger Lipsey, author of Hammarskjöld: A Life, introduced his audience to Dag Hammarskjöld’s ethic, revealed in four key aspects. These were his conscious self-scrutiny (of himself); mobile awareness and empathy (in diplomatic and public life); facing facts, total engagement and selfless service. Dr Lipsey illustrated each of these aspects of Hammarskjöld’s ethic with excerpts from his book Markings. These included ‘You can only hope to find a lasting solution to a conflict if you have learned to see the other objectively, but, at the same time, to experience his difficulties subjectively’ written in 1955. In this and other passages, one can follow more clearly the manner of Hammarskjöld’s mission in the Congo.
Dr Lipsey, Professor Melber and David Wardrop
A lively discussion followed in which the speakers and members of the audience congratulated Ban Ki moon on his determination to ‘establish the truth of what happened on that fateful night’ but noted that despite the supportive General Assembly Resolution (19 November 2015), his term of office runs out this year. So what might his successor do? Mr Wardrop referred to the 1 for 7 Billion Campaign comprising 750 organisations and 170 million supporters worldwide, committed to getting the best Secretary-General to follow Ban Ki moon. Through this campaign, the candidates are identified and the UN has made it possible to pose them questions. Mr Wardrop told the audience he hoped that his own question “Ban Ki moon has shown great courage in pursuing the truth on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. Although supported by most Member States, some powerful states are being slow to release relevant information. Will you guarantee to continue his courageous work?” might be among the thirty to be short-listed in April. Audience contributions included those currently researching contemporary papers deposited in the UK national archives and journalists covering Sweden and African issues. In conclusion, the speakers urged the audience to follow news reports on these pages.
The event was jointly organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London and the United Nations Association Westminster Branch.
17 March - Leiden University seminar discusses events in the Congo at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
Leiden University seminar discusses events in the Congo at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
17 March 2016 The African Studies Centre of the University of Leiden organised a seminar to review the challenges facing Dag Hammarskjöld at the time of his death and to provide an update on the efforts of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon to determine the cause of his death.
Dr Henning Melber, Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, introduced his address describing the international tensions that influenced Dag Hammarskjöld at the time he sought to negotiate a peaceful settlement in the Congo. He recounted how Hammarskjold had been treated with suspicion by both the Soviet Union and western powers but nevertheless his loyalty was defined through the United Nations Charter and further, he defined his office of Secretary-General as giving life to the principles of the Charter and its normative framework. Dr Melber added that Hammarskjöld could also be seen as the ‘Secretary-General for the decolonisation of Africa’, referring to several of his speeches in which he stressed that national sovereignty for African states was ‘non-negotiable’. The seminar can be viewed here.
19 November – Sweden, Zambia with support of Ban Ki-Moon and 73 countries agree in UN General Assembly to pursue cause of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
Sweden, Zambia with support of Ban Ki-Moon and 73 countries agree in UN General Assembly to pursue cause of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death
19 November 2015 The Swedish ambassador, Olof Skoog, today tabled a resolution at the UN General Assembly urging fellow delegates to support further inquiries into how Dag Hammarskjöld and fellow passengers died aboard his aircraft in 1961. The resolution was drafted jointly with the delegation of Zambia and co-sponsored by seventy-four countries including 23 EU members but not the USA or UK. Mr Skoog contrasted the difference between what is known about Hammarskjöld’s contribution to the UN and his own inner thoughts and what is not known about the cause of his death. The resolution was adopted.
The resolution encourages the UN Secretary-General to explore the feasibility of establishing a central archival holding all information pertaining to the plane crash, as proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Independent Panel of Experts Panel led by Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania which reported to him in June (Report 20 July). It also urges all Members States, in particular those addressed in the report of the Independent Panel of Experts, to release to the Secretary-General any relevant records in their possession. It is understood that Ban Ki-Moon has made specific requests for such information from the USA, the UK, France and South Africa.
In his supportive statement (18 November), the Secretary-General reaffirmed that “he is personally invested in fulfilling our duty to the distinguished former Secretary-General and those who accompanied him, to endeavour to establish the facts after so many years, and will inform the Assembly on any further progress made before the end of its seventieth session.”
The UN Panel set up by Ban Ki-Moon identified several clear lines of inquiry to be followed up. These were:
(a) The credibility of nine new Zambian eyewitnesses who claimed to observe more than one aircraft in the air at the same time as SE-BDY (Hammarskjöld’s plane) made its approach to Ndola, and that any additional aircraft were jets, or that SE-BDY was on fire before it impacted the ground or that it was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by other aircraft present;
(b) Claims by two American service personnel, based in Cyprus and in Greece respectively, who claimed to hear intercepts or read transcripts of intercepts of radio transmissions relating to a possible aerial or ground attack on SE-BDY;
(c) Additional information that has emerged on the air capability of the provincial government of Katanga in 1961 and its use of foreign military and paramilitary personnel;
(d) The possibility that communications sent from the CX-52 cryptographic machine used by Mr. Hammarskjöld were intercepted;
(e) The possibility of crew fatigue and
(f) Additional information that calls into question the official account of the time of discovery of the crash site and the behaviour of various officials and local authorities.
In pursuing the matter, the resolution has flagged the determination of Sweden and Zambia to ensure the UN General Assembly does not lose sight of the matter, requesting that “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him” be included in next year’s provisional agenda. In September, Ban Ki-Moon made clear his own determination to pursue the matter, at a wreath-laying ceremony at the UN in New York (Report 15 September).
In a separate development, on 17 November, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter referred to recent research undertaken at the National Archives in Kew, London, which it claims will lead to further questions to the British government. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) had claimed in its submission to the UN Panel that it had ‘co-ordinated a search across all relevant UK departments. None of these departments have identified any pertinent material.' However, as observed in an earlier Report (20 July), this explanation cannot be deemed satisfactory as it does not appear to include information held by the security and intelligence agencies, MI6, MI5 and GCHQ which are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.
Also reported in Dagens Nyheter, Archbishop Emeritus K G Hammar, former head of the Church of Sweden and a member of the Hammarskjöld Commission until it closed in 2014, recalled his own visit to the crash site in 2011 and meeting eye witnesses. “There is no reason for these old people to lie and it seems that the UN Panel of Experts listened to these people (and) have been just as convinced (as I was)”. Archbishop Hammar accused the UK of maintaining a post-colonial stance, stating “I am not so hopeful that somebody will put on the table evidence which says who did it and who was behind it. However I reckon that we who have been pushing this question have rewritten history, the one which says it was a tragic air accident. At the same time it is difficult to understand that this should be Big Powers politics 50 years later.”
15 September - Ban Ki-Moon lays wreath, reminding new General Assembly of his intentions
Ban Ki-Moon lays wreath, reminding new General Assembly of his intentions
15 September 2015 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has laid a wreath in memory of former SG Dag Hammarskjöld who died 54 years ago, just hours before the opening of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York.
Speaking to diplomats in the Meditation Room* at the United Nations Headquarters, he referred to the plane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others died and to his appointment in January of a panel of experts to re-examine the circumstances of that crash, Ban Ki-Moon stated "In this 70th anniversary year of the United Nations, establishing the truth of what happened on that fateful night would be a fitting tribute to the former secretary-general and all those who lost their lives on a mission of peace." The ceremony was attended by Sweden's Ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog who spoke about the lasting memories many Swedes have of Hammarskjold, who described the day Hammarskjöld died as Sweden's "John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela moment." (Xinhua Agency)
In July 2015, Ban Ki-Moon urged those Member States which continued to withhold documents which might have assisted the UN Panel to disclose, declassify or otherwise allow privileged access to information that they may have in their possession related to the crash. He stated that he would request the UN’s Legal Counsel to pursue these and to report back to him. To facilitate this process, he suggested setting up a central archive that would enable access by the UN and other authorised parties to ensure their continued and enhanced preservation and access, even if access is only possible to an ‘eminent person or persons whom the General Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.’
Observers believe that by drawing international attention to this wreath-laying ceremony, Ban Ki-Moon is making it clear that he will not let this matter lie and that a statement on the matter should be expected.
* The Meditation Room, the ‘Room of Quiet’ was personally planned and supervised by Dag Hammarskjöld in 1957, replacing a smaller room included in the original plan for the new UN Headquarters. It is dedicated to silence, where people can withdraw into themselves, regardless of their faith, creed or religion.
20 July - Ban Ki Moon receives Report from Independent Panel of Experts and pledges to pursue the truth in determining how Dag Hammarskjöld died in 1961
Ban Ki Moon receives Report from Independent Panel of Experts and pledges to pursue the truth in determining how Dag Hammarskjöld died in 1961
20 July 2015 The UN Panel set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to ‘examine and assess new information relating to the airplane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld and others died’ submitted its Report in June. The Secretary-General has now made this public together with assurance of his determination to reach the truth as far as it is possible. The Report summarises new information, much gathered from the exhaustive independent Hammarskjöld Commission Report (2013) which triggered the UN General Assembly resolution to revisit the issue and to fund the work of the UN Panel.
The Panel’s Report classed new information on levels of probative value; nil, weak, moderate and strong. It dismissed outright many theories on how Hammarskjöld’s plane (SE-BDY) came to crash but assigned ‘moderate’ probative value to several observations including the following:
(a) Nine new Zambian eyewitnesses who claimed to observe more than one aircraft in the air at the same time as SE-BDY made its approach to Ndola, and that any additional aircraft were jets, or that SE-BDY was on fire before it impacted the ground or that it was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by other aircraft present;
(b) Claims by two American service personnel, based in Cyprus and in Greece respectively, who claimed to hear intercepts or read transcripts of intercepts of radio transmissions relating to a possible aerial or ground attack on SE-BDY;
(c) Additional information that has emerged on the air capability of the provincial government of Katanga in 1961 and its use of foreign military and paramilitary personnel;
(d) The possibility that communications sent from the CX-52 cryptographic machine used by Mr. Hammarskjöld were intercepted;
(e) The possibility of crew fatigue and
(f) Additional information that calls into question the official account of the time of discovery of the crash site and the behaviour of various officials and local authorities.
The Panel concluded that information with sufficient probative value should lead a further inquiry to pursue aerial attack or other interference as a hypothesis of the possible cause of the crash. In particular, it specifically concluded that the new eyewitness testimony, the claims of alleged intercepts and the new information concerning the air capability of the Katangan forces, as mentioned in (a) to (c) above, “may also provide an appreciable lead in pursuing the truth of the probable cause or causes of the air crash and tragic deaths”.
Ban Ki Moon recognises that ‘further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts. Such an inquiry or investigation would, however, be in a better position to reach a conclusive finding with the benefit of the specific information requested by the Panel from the Member States concerned.’
Noting that several States continue to withhold documents which might have assisted the UN Panel, he urged these to disclose, declassify or otherwise allow privileged access to information that they may have in their possession related to the crash. To this end, he has requested the UN’s Legal Counsel to pursue these and to report back to him.
States withholding documents include the UK and the USA. In responding to the UN Panel, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) replied that it had ‘co-ordinated a search across all relevant UK departments. None of these departments have identified any pertinent material.' However, observers comment that, as the security and intelligence agencies, MI6, MI5, GCHQ, are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation, the FCO search cannot be deemed exhaustive. The response from the USA can be described similarly and those from the governments of Belgium, France and South Africa also invite renewed pursuit by Ban Ki Moon’s representatives.
In the meantime, he has suggested setting up a central archive that would enable access by the UN and other authorised parties to ensure their continued and enhanced preservation and access, even if access is only possible to an ‘eminent person or persons whom the General Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.’ It is clear that the Secretary-General will not let this lie.
The UN Panel comprising Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman (Tanzania), aviation specialist Kerryn Macaulay (Australia) and ballistics expert Henrik Larsen (Denmark) has interviewed informants in the USA, UK, Sweden and Zambia.
Over more than fifty years, much new information has emerged. The book Who Killed Hammarskjöld (2011) by Susan Williams provides a useful guide to key documents and to rival theories and led to the setting up of the independent Hammarskjöld Commission comprising distinguished retired jurists. The 2013 Report of the Commission persuaded Ban Ki-moon to seek agreement from the UN General Assembly to set up the new Panel.
For the Hammarskjöld Commission Report, see http://www.hammarskjoldcommission.org
1 July - Is Ban Ki-moon’s Panel on Hammarskjöld’s death running out of time to properly complete its report?
Is Ban Ki-moon’s Panel on Hammarskjöld’s death running out of time to properly complete its report?
I June 2015 Observers following the progress of the Hammarskjöld Panel appointed by UN S-G Ban Kimoon to examine new information on the death of former S-G Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961 fear that it might have to compromise its programme as its budget extends only to 30 June 2015, when it must present its report. The Panel, with the remit of evaluating the new information for its probative value, began its work as recently as April, thus allowing for barely three months of investigation.
The Panel members are eminent experts in highly relevant disciplines. However, observers point to key issues which the Panel’s report might not have time to address adequately. One issue is that the Panel needs to understand the colonial mindset and context of British-ruled Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in which the original UN Inquiry of 1961-62 was conducted.
There is understandable sensitivity that in re-opening the Inquiry, the UN needs to show due recognition of the treatment of colonised nations in Africa and of the conduct of the superpowers at the time of the accident. A number of African eye witness accounts of aircraft movements over Ndola airport at the time of the crash challenged official reports – and these accounts were disregarded as inherently unreliable by the original UN Inquiry, reiterating the approach of the inquiries by the colonial authorities. The release of various documents many years later supports their recollection. It follows that their claims to have witnessed extraordinary sightings in the sky, dismissed at the time, should be re-examined fully. The Panel visited Ndola to interview eye witnesses but observers worry that the Panel will have had insufficient time to listen carefully to all witnesses, to set them in context, and to reach any conclusions.
In addition, it is important to know whether or not the Panel is getting traction for S-G Ban Ki-moon’s request to Member States for the release of ‘any relevant records in their possession’. The US government has not released into the public domain relevant documentation held by CIA, NSA and the State Department, even though these records are well over 50 years old. Nor has the UK government released any material held by MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, even though an MI6 official was at Ndola for six days surrounding the crash in activities relating to Hammarskjöld’s visit. Belgium, France and South Africa may also hold relevant files, as may the UN itself. What records have the Panel seen? How comprehensive have the disclosures been? Are those records now available to the public?
The Panel will surely not be able to write an authoritative report on the probative value of the new evidence unless all relevant documentation has been released by the countries involved.
Budgetary issues appear to be driving the UN Panel’s agenda. With only US$500, 000 to spend, its work must complete by the end of June and it is this finance-driven deadline that worries observers. In the UK, the recent conclusion of investigations into the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy of 1989 illustrates that such exercises can lead to great expenditure but, at the same time, it is important to the community that closure is both authoritative and transparent. “We owe it to the deceased, to their families and relatives, and also to the wider global community, to undertake everything possible to establish the truth. To those who insist it is a waste of time to review such events from history, we would argue that the injustice felt at the time still resonates today” said David Wardrop, Chairman of United Nations Association Westminster branch, co-ordinator of the international campaign to re-open the Inquiry. “At a time when critics of the UN System and its Member States challenge its determination to manifest the principle of transparency, it is on such issues that it and they will be judged.”
The UN Panel comprises Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman (Tanzania), aviation specialist Kerryn Macaulay (Australia) and ballistics expert Henrik Larsen (Denmark).
Over more than fifty years, much new information has emerged. The book Who Killed Hammarskjöld (2011) by Susan Williams provides a useful guide to key documents and to rival theories and led to the setting up of the independent and international Hammarskjöld Commission, comprising distinguished retired jurists. The 2013 Report of the Commission persuaded Ban Ki-moon to seek agreement from the UN General Assembly to set up the new Panel.
For the Hammarskjöld Commission Report, see http://www.hammarskjoldcommission.org
16 April - Hammarskjöld panel of experts starts its work
Hammarskjöld panel of experts starts its work
16 April 2015 UNA Westminster welcomes news that the independent panel of experts to examine new information that has emerged on the death of Hammarskjöld has commenced its work. The panel comprises Mr. Mohamed Chande Othman (United Republic of Tanzania) as Head of the Panel; Ms. Kerryn Macaulay (Australia); and Mr. Henrik Larsen (Denmark).
The panel has been given until 30 June to examine and assess the probative value of all new information. It is hoped that the panel’s work will benefit through the release by Member States of any relevant records in their possession. The principal source document for the panel’s work will be the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission (see below) which is underpinned by a great amount of supportive material, already submitted to the panel.
Further independent analysis of records of aircraft movements over the critical hours of the time of the crash of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane continues. Efforts to dispel suggestions of conspiracy and foul play causing the crash have been hindered by contradictory evidence on this issue when presented to the initial official Inquiries.
UNA Westminster urges all who believe they can contribute useful information to help the panel to do so. Even though for decades, fanciful theories may seem to have exhausted any further options, the gradual release of archives by several governments has cast new light on the matter. But despite the request by the UN Secretary-General for the release by Member States of any relevant records in their possession, UNA Westminster remains concerned that this request will not be honoured. We await the report of the panel.
To follow developments so far, please use this excellent Timeline provided by the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library. This includes the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission.
If you wish to communicate with the panel, please write to:
The Legal Counsel
Office of Legal Affairs
405 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
31 December - Commentaries on the UN General Assembly’s decision of 30 December
Commentaries on the UN General Assembly’s decision of 30 December
31 December Following the decision of the UN General Assembly to support the resolution to re-open the Inquiry into the death of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, two members of the Hammarskjöld Commission have commented on developments.
Ambassador Hans Corell (above), formerly Under-SecretaryGeneral for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel of the United Nations, was interviewed on the Swedish Radio News Channel, P1 Morgen. Also, Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen, who served as a judge of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, was interviewed on Netherlands Radio.
Recent media coverage worldwide includes the authoritative contribution by Claudia Antunes who reports for the Brazilian journal PIAUÍ. Joe Lauria, Wall Street Journal, who has followed the story closely since the publication of the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission in September 2013, contributed his article on 29 December (WSJ subscribers only).
[I] Members of the Hammarskjöld Commission
The Rt Hon. Sir Stephen Sedley (Chair), UK
Ambassador Hans Corell, Sweden
Judge Richard Goldstone, South Africa
Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen, Netherlands
For the Report, see http://www.hammarskjoldcommission.org
30 December - UN General Assembly agrees by consensus to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others
UN General Assembly agrees by consensus to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others
30 December The UN General Assembly has by consensus of all 193 nations adopted a resolution to re-open the Inquiry into the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.
The resolution reads as follows:
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962,
Acknowledging the report of the Commission of Jurists on the Inquiry into the Death of Dag Hammarskjöld,
Considering the note by the Secretary-General with his assessment that the report of the Hammarskjöld Commission includes new evidence,
1.Requests the Secretary-General to appoint an independent panel of experts to examinenew information and to assess its probative value;
2.Encourages Member States to release any relevant records in their possession and toprovide to the Secretary-General relevant information related to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him;
3.Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventieth sessionon the progress made.
The panel of experts will set out to examine new information that has emerged during the intervening years. Also, it is requested to “assess the probative value” of that information, after the Secretary-General submitted a note that included his assessment that the report of the Commission of Jurists on the Inquiry into Mr. Hammarskjöld’s death includes new evidence.
Member States are encouraged to release any relevant records in their possession and to provide relevant information related to the death of Mr. Hammarskjöld and others accompanying him on the aircraft that crashed in what is today Zambia on the night of 17-18 September 1961.
15 December - Sweden introduces draft resolution for the UN General Assembly to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others
Sweden introduces draft resolution for the UN General Assembly to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others
15 December The UN General Assembly heard Sweden’s Ambassador Per Thöresson introduce a draft resolution on investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those on board his flight. He stated that he spoke with the support of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Ghana, Iceland, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Zambia as well as Sweden.
He stated that ‘Hammarskjöld’s tenure, marked by vision and pragmatism, paved the way for policy and practices that have been mainstreamed and consolidated in ways that we now take for granted. Hammarskjöld promoted the integrity and independence of the United Nations and of the Secretary-General, ideals nowadays rarely questioned, and of crucial importance as the UN has expanded into a near-universal membership. He conceived the concept of preventive diplomacy, and set ground-breaking examples for the Secretary-General’s direct diplomatic engagement.’
He referred to General Assembly resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962 which considered the UN inquiry’s report of the crash and requested the Secretary-General to inform it of any new evidence relating to the disaster. Following Ban Ki-moon’s recognition of such as provided by the Hammarskjöld Commission, and his suggestion that the General Assembly consider three different options to examine this, Mr Thöresson tabled a brief draft resolution with three operational elements. One, it requests the Secretary-General to appoint an independent panel of experts to examine new information and to assess its probative value. Two, it encourages Members States to release any relevant records in their possession and to provide to the Secretary-General relevant information related to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him, and three, it requests the Secretary-General to report on the progress made to the General Assembly at its 70th session. In his speech, the ambassador thanked several Member States, especially Zambia*.
The financial implications of the resolution will be considered by the Fifth Committee later this week.
[* Mama Chibesa Kankasa, a witness to events at the time of the accident and later, a member of Zambia’s Central Committee in Charge of Women's Affairs, referred to UNA Westminster’s campaign in her powerful supportive letter to her country’s Foreign Minister.]
3 December - Irish ‘Congo vet’ urges Dublin to support re-opening of Inquiry
The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December
Irish ‘Congo vet’ urges Dublin to support re-opening of Inquiry
John Wickham who served with C Company, 38th Battalion, of the Irish Defence Forces deployed to the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) has met HE Mr Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador in London, to urge that Ireland participate in the UN General Assembly debate on 15 December.
Mr Wickham, who over many years has followed closely the various reports and analyses relating to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, and Mr Mulhall discussed how the ONUC mission in which there were 27 Irish fatalities, witnessed Ireland’s Defence Forces come of age and take its place on the internatio-nal stage. This difficult and traumatic mission in which the Irish troops’ performance and even-handedness in dealing with all parties was highly praised, earned them a new respect within the UN. Noting that many Irish citizens like himself will remember their own experiences in the Congo, Mr Wickham urged that Ireland had a moral obligation to show both its own citizens, young and old, that it truly wishes to determine what happened at Ndola where the plane carrying Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others crashed.
Mr Mulhall asked questions concerning the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission in discussion with David Wardrop who also attended the meeting. Mr Wardrop chairs the United Nations Association Westminster Branch which is co-ordinating efforts to encourage UN Member States to participate in the debate on 15 December. Mr Mulhall agreed to take forward Mr Wickham’s requests and to keep informed of developments.
26 November - Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December
The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December
Leading Swedish personalities urge their government to take a leading role
24 leading Swedes have announced their support for the initiative to ensure the UN General Assembly decides on 15 December to re-open the inquiry into the circumstances of Dag Hammarskjöld's death. In their letter (26 November), they write as Swedish citizens to urge their government to take a leading role in seeking the truth. They argue that ‘Sweden has an ethical obligation to show both its own citizens and the whole world that it truly wishes to determine what happened at Ndola and also emphasise solidarity and sympathy with those from Sweden and other nations who each year risk, and in many cases sacrifice, their lives in the service of the United Nations and for the ideals for peace that Dag Hammarskjöld personified.
The signatories include Lasse Berg, Ove Bring, Terry Carlbom, Marika Griehsel, Bengt Gustafsson, KG Hammar, Anders Hellberg, Göran Hyden, Christer Jönsson, Birgitta Karlström Dorph, Henning Mankell, Henning Melber, Thandika Mkandawire, Peter Nobel, Jan Axel Nordlander, Alex Obote-Odora, Stina Oscarson, Rolf Rembe, Sten Rylander, Pierre Schori, Peter Wallensteen, Peter Weiderud, Anki Wood and Pål Wrange.
21 November - Carl Bildt: the NSA documents are ‘of no importance’ (Dagens Nyheter)
The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December
Carl Bildt: the NSA documents are ‘of no importance’ (Dagens Nyheter)[from Dagens Nyheter, 21 November – see note at end of article]
According to former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Sweden has already accessed some of the classified documents held by the US National Security Agency (NSA) which it is claimed could solve the mystery of Dag Hammarskjöld's death. This information was “trivial and without meaning' he said. “That is why the former government did not push the question further at the UN.”
On Thursday, Dagens Nyheter reported that Sweden had reviewed the Hammarskjöld question and that its new government is thinking of submitting a new resolution at the UN seeking to bring clarity to the cause of death of the former Secretary General. This moves away from the policy of the former Reinfeldt Government which did not push the question at the UN and was accused of being too passive.
Dagens Nyheter can now reveal that Sweden did access the classified NSA documents which the independent Hammarskjöld Commission identified last year as important for the case. The Commission had requested access to the documents but the response had been negative.
This revelation is surprising bearing in mind that the USA had not formally decided to reveal what the documents contain. This is discouraging for those who had hoped that these documents could solve the fifty year-plus mystery of the air crash at Ndola which took the lives of Hammarskjöld and fifteen others. At the time of the crash, the NSA was conducting surveillance in the area.
According to Bildt, the decision not to push the question further at the UN was founded on there being no new information. He offered the opinion that the Hammarskjöld Commission had based so much of its Report on the contents of the NSA documents, it was important for his government to find out as much as possible about them. Other countries including Great Britain and Belgium were also asked for relevant information but all reported that everything has been put on the table. Carl Bildt stated that he had informed the new government which, despite this information, had chosen a different line at the UN.
“I think nobody would have any objections to a new investigation other than the question of whether there is sufficient new information to justify this. Whether the new government has found any new information I don't know” Bildt told Dagens Nyheter.
The new Cabinet Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, Annika Söder, has defended the approach of the new government. She stated that the NSA documents are only are two of innumerable documents and other pieces of information that must be investigated. These might be held in other archives and comprise witness statements from Africans living close to the crash site who were not called to testify in the investigations immediately following the crash.
With the new information identified by the Hammarskjöld Commission, she stated that there was every reason to go to the UN, the correct body to explore the new evidence. Also she emphasised that if Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, considers the matter should be looked into, one should take this seriously, especially on behalf of the relatives of those who died. “This is a UN concern and not a Swedish concern. Why should we play detectives when there is an existing system and process which the world community society to take forward?” she asked.
The Foreign Office is currently drafting the required Resolution in time for when the Hammarskjöld question is debated by the UN General Assembly on December 15.
This article by Jens Littoren was published in the Swedish journal Dagens Nyheter on 21 November. It has been translated by HK Simensen and David Wardrop and should not be taken as an official document. For the original, see http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/bildt-nsas-dokument-inte-av-vikt/
19 Novemeber - New Swedish government changes stance on death of Dag Hammarskjöld
The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December
New Swedish government changes stance on death of Dag Hammarskjöld[from Dagens Nyheter, 19 November – see note at end of article]
Sweden will now actively push for a review of the circumstances surrounding the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961. By this move, the new government abandons the Reinfeldt administration’s passive stance on the issue. "It is the obligation of the Government of Sweden to try to bring clarity," said Foreign Ministry State Secretary Annika Söder.
On 15 December, Dag Hammarskjold's death is scheduled to be debated by the UN General Assembly. New information has been received including that which refers to the plane crash in which Hammarskjöld died. The General Assembly will decide whether the case should be re-examined and, if so, in what manner.
Dagens Nyheter understands that, earlier this year, Swedish Foreign Office documents showed that the Reinfeldt government did not intend to push for a new review. The incoming government takes a different line. Annika Söder confirms that Sweden will present a resolution when the matter is discussed by the General Assembly and speaks of the country’s moral obligation. “For us it is a matter of clarity. We have way too many great men and women who have died without sufficient clarity. This is about our own countrymen who perished and also for their families. If Sweden does not take this initiative, I do not think any other country will do it.” said Söder.
The question of the Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's death continues to fascinate. Dagens Nyheter has followed developments in pursuit of the truth. Also involved is a British lord, an archbishop and writers also have had key roles.
In September last year, the Hammarskjöld Commission comprising independent jurists presented its report with new information about the plane crash in Ndola which cost the then Secretary-General Hammarskjöld and another 15 people, including eight Swedes. It identified several classified documents, which the US National Security Agency (NSA) appears unwilling to disclose. Earlier this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged all UN Member States to release all relevant documents, supporting the case for re-opening the investigation. He gave three options; allowing an expert panel reviewing the new information; to open the UN inquiry from 1961-62 again; to start a new investigation.
The Swedish government is currently preparing the text of the necessary resolution. It is clear that Sweden will co-sponsor the first proposal because they believe it makes it easier to get support from other countries.
“Naturally, we could go straight to a new investigation,” said Foreign Ministry State Secretary Annika Söder “but we believe this is the way to get the most information. Also, it is not only archive data from different countries which is important but also testimonials, especially from the Africans residing at the site for the crash, which was not properly heard in the 60's.” She believes that there are good prospects that the resolution adopted by the General Assembly.
Annika Söder, the Foreign Ministry's top official, was the former head of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala but claims the new Swedish line has nothing to do with her former position. “I followed these developments when I was working for the Foundation but we have not devoted ourselves the question of Hammarskjöld's death. However, the Foundation's mission is to manage his political legacy. This initiative has been driven by a Swedish wish for open policy making.”
The previous government had previously been criticized for failing to act to bring further clarity about the plane crash. Former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his colleagues have referred to the one-man inquiry conducted in 1993 which concluded that the crash was probably due to pilot error. Relatives of the victims have interpreted the Foreign Ministry's inaction to reflect its sensitivity to the opinions of other countries. However, Söder does not think that the proposed review should be seen sensitive to Sweden.
This article by Jens Littoren was published in the Swedish journal Dagens Nyheter on 19 November. It has been translated by HK Simensen and David Wardrop and should not be taken as an official document. For the original, http://www.unt.se/asikt/debatt/utred-hans-ode-nu-3450820.aspx