New inquiry into ex-UN chief Dag Hammarskjold's death

The crash site of Dag Hammarskjold DC6 plane The DC6 plane crashed in the early hours of 18 September 1961

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A new inquiry is to be launched into the death of United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold when his plane crashed in Zambia in 1961.

A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find a cause for the Swedish-born diplomat's mysterious demise.

New evidence will be examined by an international commission of lawyers.

Mr Hammarskjold's plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission when it crashed in a forest near Ndola in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

The crash occurred shortly before landing just after midnight on 18 September.

All but one of the passengers and crew on the flight were killed.

'Whole truth'

The committee's chairman David Lea said that the time was right to set up the new inquiry.

"We believe that the whole of the truth, in significant respects, has yet to be told," he said.

Dag Hammarskjold

Dag Hammarskjold
  • Born in 1905 into an aristocratic Swedish family
  • Full name, Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjold
  • Helped lay foundations of Swedish welfare state
  • Swedish state secretary for foreign affairs (1947-1951)
  • The UN's second secretary general (1953-1961), proposed by Britain and France
  • Nobel Peace Prize winner 1961

Three investigations have failed to determine the cause of the crash, and many conspiracy theories have swirled around Mr Hammarskjold's death.

Two investigations held in the British-run Central African Federation, which included Northern Rhodesia, were followed by an official UN inquiry, which concluded that foul play could not be ruled out.

Though the inquiry has no official standing, it will be carried out by several high-profile jurists, including South African judge Richard Goldstone, retired British judge Stephen Sedley, former Swedish diplomat Hans Correll and Dutch Supreme Court judge Wilhelmina Thomassen.

They hope to to review the evidence, complete their report within a year and submit the findings to the UN.

Mr Lea said a book published last year by British academic Susan Williams entitled Who Killed Hammarskjold? - which concluded that it was likely that the plane was brought down - provided fresh evidence that needed to be examined.

The plane crashed as he was trying to negotiate a ceasefire in Congo's mineral-rich Katanga province, where Moise Tshombe led Western-backed separatist rebels against the Soviet Union-allied Congolese government.

After his death, Mr Hammarskjold was described by US President John F Kennedy as the "greatest statesman of our century".

The only person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize after his death, he established the first armed UN peacekeeping mission following the crisis in Suez.

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