Diplomat reversal on Dag Hammarskjöld death

Newly released evidence on the death of UN chief and renowned Swedish statesman Dag Hammarskjöld, including previously unseen pictures of his corpse, has caused the author of an official inquiry to question his own claims that the death was an accident.

Diplomat reversal on Dag Hammarskjöld death

Bengt Rösiö, the diplomat who investigated the case, announced in 1993 that he was certain Hammarskjöld’s death was an accident and called for the investigation to be closed.

However, he took back this claim on Monday following a report in the Aftonbladet newspaper detailing previously unreleased material and eye-witness testimony which had been ignored in previous investigations.

“I am not sure of this anymore. There is so much that is unclear,” he told the newspaper.

“There are truly murky circumstances. You wonder whether the Rhodesian accident committee deliberately wanted to hide something.”

The new evidence included an image of the corpse of Hammarskjöld, which has caused some to question discrepensices between the image and the accident report.

For example, Hammarskjöld’s body appears to be the only one in the crash that was not charred by the flames.

“The whole case has become truly strange lately. No one wants to know about it and no one wants to talk about it. They’re keeping tight lipped,” Rösiö told the paper.

The plane crash, which occurred on the night of September 17-18, 1961, saw Hammarskjöld’s DC-6 come down near Ndola airport in the British colony Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia) as he flew in to peace talks to end fighting in the mineral-rich Katanga province in neighbouring Congo.

A pilot error was initially blamed in the United Nations inquiry, effectively endorsing an initial investigation by the colonial authorities, however new witness reports suggest that the plane may have been shot down.

Furthermore, Rösiö’s new claims add to the widespread accusations of a cover-up and the suspicion that Hammarskjöld paid the price for supporting efforts by the newly independent Congolese government to crush an uprising in Katanga being funded by Western mining companies.

Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker who interviewed eyewitnesses to the crash in Ndola, proclaimed last year that there could be “no doubt Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was brought down.”

However, Sweden’s foreign ministry is not perturbed by Rösiö’s new revelations.

“At the moment there are no new elements in this report,” said Anders Jörle, press spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry to The Local.

“The newly published pictures are the main development, but this was not something that was new to us. We have them in the archives, and we’ve chosen not to have them published for obvious and ethical reasons.”

The ministry plans to discuss the case with Rösiö before taking any further steps.

“We want to talk with Rösiö first, and listen to see what he has to add to his reflections. Then we will see what actions will be taken, if any.”

The case is not something Jörle considers to be pressing.

“It’s definitely not something that’s urgent. It’s a catastrophe, but it’s a 50-year-old catastrophe,” he told The Local.

TT/Oliver Gee

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Sweden to host UN Yemen talks

The United Nations intends to convene peace talks on Yemen soon after receiving firm assurances from the parties that they will attend negotiations in Sweden, the UN envoy said Friday.

Sweden to host UN Yemen talks
Yemen's Deputy UN ambassador Marwan Ali Noman Al-Dobhany during a meeting last month of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen at UN headquarters. Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews/TT

The Saudi-backed government and the Huthi rebels have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution to end a war that has driven millions to the brink of famine, Martin Griffiths told the Security Council.

“With this in mind, I intend to reconvene the parties shortly and to do so in Sweden,” he said. “I believe we are close to resolving issues to make this happen.”

“I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties … that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”

Griffiths plans to travel to the rebel-held capital of Sanaa next week to finalize arrangements and offered to travel with the Huthi delegation to Sweden “if that's what is needed.”

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has agreed to “logistical arrangements” to pave the way for talks including medical evacuations out of Sanaa, he added.

Griffiths announced he was close to reaching a deal on an exchange of prisoners and detainees, in a further confidence-building measure ahead of planned talks.

The United Nations had announced talks in Geneva in September that never materialized after the Huthis put forward last-minute demands.

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen since March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Huthis and restore to power Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations.

Pressure to end the Saudi-led military campaign has grown following the killing by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which sparked global outrage.

Back from a visit to Yemen, the head of the UN World Food Programme warned that the country faces a full-blown famine in about six months because of the economic collapse from the war.

“What I have seen in Yemen this week is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery,” David Beasley told the council. “Children are already dying.”

Eight million people are affected by severe food shortages, according to UN officials, who warn that up to 14 million — or half of Yemen's population — are at risk of famine.

“This is a crucial moment for Yemen,” Grffiths said of the talks in Sweden, warning that a flareup of fighting on the ground could derail the peace effort. No date for the talks was announced.

READ ALSO: Sweden calls on UN to halt offensive on Yemen port