New inquiry into the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjöld

On September 18, 1961, Swedish Secretary-General of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld was killed when his airplane crashed in Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia) as he was on a mission to negotiate peace agreements in the Congo. While the official explanation was that the crash was caused by pilot error, there have been a number of questions about the Rhodesian government investigation, and a number of theories about what really might have caused the crash. Recently, the investigation has come under more scrutiny, as in her book Who Killed Hammarskjöld?, Susan Williams claims that the Rhodesian investigation “investigation suppressed and dismissed critical evidence.” An investigation by British newspaper the Guardian helped to bring the matter of Hammarskjöld’s death back to the public’s attention.

Now, over fifty years after Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane went down, an international inquiry has been commissioned to look into the possibility that the plane was shot down and that the incident was subsequently covered up by local colonial authorities. According to a recent story in the Guardian, this commission “will include a retired British appeal court judge, Sir Stephen Sedley, as well as Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who was formerly chief prosecutor at The Hague war crimes tribunal. The panel will also include a retired Swedish ambassador, Hans Corell, and a Dutch judge, Wilhelmina Thomassen.” The Independent and the Huffington Post have also picked up the story.

The inquiry has no official legal power, but will report their findings to the UN. The jurists hope to complete their investigation within a year.

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