Tag Archives: Henning Melber

Misleading Conduct? US and UK Intelligence Obstruct Justice of UN Investigation

Vlado's casket Geneva Lutheran Church

From Julian Borger’s Guardian article, 24 August 2016, “Dag Hammarskjold: Ban Ki-moon seeks to appoint investigator for fatal crash”:

“[…]Ban [Ki-moon] noted that the UK had stuck to its position last year that it had no further documentation to show the UN investigation. He appended a letter sent in June by the British permanent representative to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, saying “our position remains the same and we are not able to release the materials in question without any redactions”.

Rycroft added “the total amount of information withheld is very small and most of the redactions only consist of a few words”.

The wording of the letter echoed a similar letter, turning down the UN request for more information, the UK sent in June 2015, which said that “no pertinent material” had been found in a “search across all relevant UK departments”.

In reply the UN legal counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares, reminded Rycroft of the shared responsibility of the UN and its member states “to pursue the full truth” about Hammarskjold’s death, and asked him to confirm that the search of “all relevant UK departments” included security and intelligence agencies.

In reply, Rycroft simply quoted the former UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond telling parliament that the foreign office had “coordinated a search across all relevant UK departments”.

“I think the British response is extraordinary. It’s very brisk and curt and evasive,” said Susan Williams, a British historian at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, whose book Who Killed Hammarskjold: The UN, The Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, revealed new evidence that helped persuade the UN to open a new investigation into the crash near Ndola, in what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

Part of that evidence was a report from a British intelligence officer, Neil Ritchie, who was in the area at the time of the crash and who was trying to organise a meeting between Hammarskjold and a rebel leader from neighbouring Congo, where the UN secretary general was trying to broker a truce.

“This was British territory and they had a man on the ground. It doesn’t make them responsible for the crash but it does indicate they knew a lot of what was going on,” Williams said, adding it was “highly unlikely” that Ritchie’s report which she found in an archive at Essex University, was the only British intelligence report coming the area at the time.”

On 28 August 2016, Dr Mandy Banton (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Henning Melber (Senior adviser/director emeritus, The Dag Hammarskjold Foundation), and David Wardrop (Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch) published letters together in the Guardian, “UK’s lack of transparency over plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjold”. From Melber:

“The US and British responses to the efforts by the United Nations to further explore the circumstances of the plane crash at Ndola should be an embarrassment to all citizens in these countries (and elsewhere), who have an interest in seeking clarification of what happened. The reports so far already present sufficient evidence that there is more to it than what the official government responses are willing to admit.

This form of denial through non-compliance with legitimate demands for access to information is tantamount to obstruction and sabotages the sincere efforts to bring closure to one of the unsolved cases involving western states and their security operations. Such an arrogant attitude further dents the image of those who claim to be among civilized nations then and now.”

From 2 September 2016, here is an excerpt from Justice Richard Goldstone’s letter to the Guardian, “Hammarskjold case is not yet closed”:

“[…]it is highly likely that some member states of the UN, especially but not only the US, hold records or transcripts of cockpit transmissions in the minutes before the plane came down. If so, these may well put the cause of the crash, whatever it was, beyond doubt. But neither the US National Security Agency, which has gradually resiled from its admission to our commission that it held two relevant records, nor, as Dr Banton’s letter (29 August) suggests, the UK government, has so far responded with any vigour to the secretary-general’s plea for cooperation.”

From the 6 September 2016 New York Times, “Release the Records on Dag Hammarskjold’s Death”, written by The Rt. Hon. Sir Stephen Sedley:

“There was also evidence that the N.S.A. was monitoring the airwaves in the Ndola region, almost certainly from one of two American aircraft parked on the tarmac. Our inquiry therefore asked the agency for any relevant records it held of local radio traffic before the crash. The agency replied that it had three records “responsive” to our request but that two of those were classified top secret and would not be disclosed.

At its close, my commission recommended that the United Nations follow up this lead. The General Assembly appointed a three-person panel, which repeated our request to the N.S.A. This time, the agency replied that the two documents were not transcripts of radio messages as Southall had described and offered to let one of the panel members, the Australian aviation expert Kerryn Macaulay, see them. This she did, reporting that the documents contained nothing relevant to the cause of the crash.

This makes it difficult to understand how those two documents were initially described as “responsive” to a request explicitly for records of radio intercepts, or why they were classified top secret. It raises doubts about whether the documents shown to Ms. Macaulay were, in fact, the documents originally identified by the N.S.A. The recent denial that there is any record of United States Air Force planes’ being present at Ndola increases the impression of evasiveness.”

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From the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) website, “What You Should Know About Obstruction of Justice”:
“Q: Does obstruction of justice always involve bribery or physical force?
A: No. One particularly murky category of obstruction is the use of “misleading conduct” toward another person for the purpose of obstructing justice. “Misleading conduct” may consist of deliberate lies or “material omissions” (leaving out facts which are crucial to a case). It may also include knowingly submitting or inviting a judge or jury to rely on false or misleading physical evidence, such as documents, maps, photographs or other objects. Any other “trick, scheme, or device with intent to mislead” may constitute a “misleading conduct” form of obstruction.”

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In Memory of Vlado: 28 September 1961

With deep respect for Dag Hammarskjold, and all those who died with him, here are the photos from Vladimir Fabry’s funeral in Geneva, 28 September 1961. I’ve also included a postcard photo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Geneva, the location of Vlado’s memorial service.

John A. Olver, who had been Chief Administrative Officer for the UNOC, and was asked to accompany his fallen friends on the the Pan-Am flight around the world (The first stop was Leopoldville, then Geneva, Malmo, Stockholm, Dublin, Montreal, and last, New York), gives his reflections of this day in his memoir “Under Fire With Dag Hammarskjold”; which is part of “Dag Hammarskjold Remembered: A Collection of Personal Memories”, edited by Mary-Lynn Hanley and Henning Melber:

“As morning light started to appear we arrived at the Mediterranean, and then flashed across that same sea I had crossed in the other direction so recently. By early morning the high mountains began to appear, and suddenly, or so it seemed, the great white tower of Mont Blanc speared upward below us. The view was unusually sharp and clear, and it occurred to me that Dag Hammarskjold, passionate mountain lover, would have enjoyed this moment. I glanced over at Knut [Hammarskjold].

“Yes,” he nodded, “Dag would have liked this.”

Now began the descent for Geneva, down the length of the long, blue lake with the tidy Swiss city waiting for us at the far end. The familiar bump of landing was felt again, and my watch confirmed that the leap from the heart of Africa to the heart of Europe had been accomplished with split-second timing: it was precisely eleven in the morning.

The plane was towed to a large hangar at one end of the airport, and we disembarked into a glorious Geneva day, to join the silent ranks of thousands of mourners. We were home again, yet somehow we felt lost and far away.

In the hangar, the authorities of the city and canton, long accustomed to important ceremonies yet personally affected by the loss of a world leader whom they had come to know well, had set up a small chapel where last respects could be paid to the Secretary-General and his companions. There was a catafalque upon which the Hammarskjold casket would rest, accompanied by a book in which mourners could inscribe their names. In a few minutes, the casket was in place, and a long procession, stretching far out along the side of the airfield, began to form and move slowly into the hangar and out again. We saw in the endless line the faces of family members, friends, and persons from all walks of life and from offices of the United Nations, and the many other international organizations, plus the diplomatic corps and representatives of the Swiss Government.”

Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva2
Pan-Am Geneva Sept.1961
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva1
Pan-Am funeral procession Geneva Sept. 1961
Funeral procession Geneva Sept. 1961
Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva postcard
Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva Sept. 1961
Vlado's funeral Geneva Lutheran Church
Vlado's casket Geneva Lutheran Church
2 Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva Sept. 1961
Cimetiere Petit-Saconnex Sept. 1961

One of the most touching tokens of respect to the memory of Vlado, is a large, two-volume book set, embossed with the UN emblem, containing the collected signatures from every UN staff member around the world. Among the signatures of the European Office of the United Nations in Geneva, is this brief homage from John A. Olver:

“He perhaps came as close as humanly possible to being the ideal international civil servant. Certainly his example will endure lastingly in the Secretariat as an inspiration to us all.”

And from another Geneva staff member, whose signature I cannot decipher, there is this:

“I knew him to be a man of courage and of tenderness. It was a fine combination born of a fine mind and of an instinctive respect for his fellow man. When you see a young man growing in stature with the years and being consistently true to the things in which he believes, it leaves an impression that stays with you. Vladimir was just such a man. I shall remember him and be thankful in that memory.”