Statement by Ambassador Thöresson on introducing draft resolution on investigation of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those onboard his flight

Statement by Ambassador Per Thöresson in the General Assembly on introducing draft resolution on investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those onboard his flight. New York 15 December, 2014

Mr. President,


I have asked for the floor to introduce a draft resolution concerning the investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him, on behalf of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Ghana, Iceland, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Zambia, as well as my own country, Sweden.


The words and deeds in pursuit of peace of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, are well known in this august assembly. His influence on the role and function of the UN was profound already in his lifetime. But his tenure, marked by vision and pragmatism, also paved the way for policy and practices that have been mainstreamed and consolidated in ways that we now take for granted.


Hammarskjöld promoted the integrity and independence of the United Nations and of the Secretary-General, ideals nowadays rarely questioned, and of crucial importance as the UN has expanded into a near-universal membership.


Hammarskjöld conceived the concept of preventive diplomacy, and set ground-breaking examples for the Secretary-General’s direct diplomatic engagement.


Hammarskjöld, in devising the first armed UN Peacekeeping Operation, UNEF, in 1956, laid the foundation stone for what remains one of the most important and visible instruments in the UN tool box.


Thus, Dag Hammarskjöld’s legacy has remained relevant throughout the half century that has passed since that fateful day in September of 1961, when he met his destiny. We know a lot about Hammarskjöld’s life and contributions, but there are still unclarities surrounding the incident in which his life came to an abrupt and violent end.


What we do know is that on the night of 17-18 September 1961, a Swedish aircraft carrying sixteen people, one of them Dag Hammarskjöld, crashed near Ndola in what was then Northern Rhodesia and is now Zambia. All those aboard the aircraft died. Over the years, a number of studies have been published concerning the background, circumstances and cause of the crash. None of them, however, has been recognised as having arrived at a definitive explanation of the crash. This holds true also for the UN’s own investigations.


The General Assembly, by resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962, considered the UN inquiry’s report of the crash, and requested the Secretary-General to inform the General Assembly of any new evidence relating to the disaster.


The Secretary-General, in his note (A/68/800) of 21 March 2014, transmitted to the General Assembly the report by the independent Hammarskjöld Commission. In this note, the SG made the assessment that this report includes new evidence. He suggested that the General Assembly should consider three different options in order to examine the new information.


The Secretary-General has, in his note, underlined that the unparalleled service and sacrifice of Dag Hammarskjöld and his legacy compels us to seek the whole truth of the circumstances leading to his tragic death and that of the members of the party accompanying him.


Sweden welcomes the report by the Hammarskjöld Commission, and the request by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly to consider the report. We join the Secretary-General in encouraging member states to release any relevant records that may bring new information regarding the crash of the plane, and welcome all that can be done in order to bring further clarification into this matter. Such actions should be carried out with due regard to the integrity of Dag Hammarskjöld and the other individuals who were killed, their families and memory.


We are thus heeding the Secretary-General’s call by introducing the draft resolution which you have before you. We consider it proper, in line with what the Hammarskjöld Commission has suggested, not to resume, at this stage, the UN inquiry at large, but instead to engage in a focused and staged resumption.


Following informal consultations last week, Sweden has tabled a brief resolution with three operational elements. One, it requests the Secretary-General to appoint an independent panel of experts to examine new information and to assess its probative value. Two, it encourages Members States to release any relevant records in their possession and to provide to the Secretary-General relevant information related to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him, and three, it requests the Secretary-General to report on the progress made to the General Assembly at its 70th session. The financial implications of the resolution will be considered by the Fifth Committee later this week.


Sweden is grateful for the support for this initiative that we have already received. We are particularly grateful for the cooperation from Zambia. We are equally grateful to Norway, Austria, Myanmar, Peru, Egypt, Ghana and the Republic of Korea, i.e. member states who have also had nationals who have served as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Sweden is also appreciative of the cooperative spirit and flexibility shown by all delegations that have assisted us in this initiative.


The purpose of this resolution is thus to help shed new light on the circumstances surrounding the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those on board his flight, not only by bringing existing documents forward, but also by providing the conditions necessary to finally hear witnesses whose testimony has so far not been given due attention.


It is the sincere hope of my government that we will hence begin our final path to closure, out of respect for the memory and dignity of Dag Hammarskjöld and those who perished, and those otherwise involved. Therefore, we seek your support for the resolution. We would welcome additional co-sponsors.


Thank you.

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