UN asks US and Britain for files on ex-chief's death

Mr Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second secretary-general, was killed in a plane crash in September 1961.
Mr Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second secretary-general, was killed in a plane crash in September 1961.

UNITED NATIONS • The United Nations yesterday pressed the United States and Britain to release secret files on the mysterious death of former secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, who died more than 50 years ago.

Mr Hammarskjold, the UN's second secretary-general, was killed in a plane crash on Sept 17 or 18, 1961 near Ndola, in northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia.

A UN panel said in July that it had uncovered new information pointing to the possibility that his plane may have been attacked and suggested that answers may be found in classified documents.

Requests sent by the panel to the US and Britain for the secret files were turned down, but UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon asked for the information to be released in July. Mr Ban's request, however, was ignored and the UN chief renewed his appeal yesterday.

"There is a possibility that unreleased material relating to the crash of Flight SE-BDY on the night between Sept 17 and 18, 1961 may still be available," Mr Ban's spokesman said.

"Therefore, the secretary-general again urges all member states to disclose, declassify or otherwise make available all information they may have in their possession related to the circumstances and conditions of the crash."

While no country was singled out, UN officials confirmed that Britain and the US were rejecting requests for information on the Hammarskjold case.

The mysterious circumstances of the crash have, for years, fuelled conspiracy theories and the panel did ask Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, South Africa and the United States for specific information.

The 56-year-old Swedish diplomat was on his way to negotiate a ceasefire for the mining-rich Katanga province, which is in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last December demanding that Mr Hammarskjold's fate be cleared up once and for all.

The spokesman said Mr Ban 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".

The General Assembly is due to present a new draft resolution this week demanding more action to shed light on the former UN chief's fate.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'UN asks US and Britain for files on ex-chief's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe