News Updates


2016

30 June - UN sets about establishing ‘central archival holding’ on relevant information

UN sets about establishing ‘central archival holding’ on relevant information

UN sets about establishing ‘central archival holding’ on relevant information

The UN’s Office for Legal Affairs has started is programme to contact institutions requesting them to identify documents and other materials which they might hold which could contribute to the proposed central archive. Individuals will be contacted later. This follows the assessment made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon following receipt of the report of the panel he set up to ‘examine and assess new information relating to the airplane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld and others died’. At the time, the UN argued that a central archive would ‘enable access by the UN and other authorised parties to ensure their continued and enhanced preservation and access, even if access is only possible to an ‘eminent person or persons whom the General Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.’
The request is accompanied by a Records Inventory template document which proposes submissions should feature fields of date range, security classifications, format (digital or physical) and its availability, electronically or to the public.  

22 May - Swedish Radio broadcast reviews speculation on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death

Swedish Radio broadcast reviews speculation on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death

The Swedish Radio broadcast, narrated by Karin Hållsten, featured archive reports made at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death as well as a later interview with the late Sture Linnér who led the UN’s operation in Leopoldville. Also interviewed for the programme were Susan Williams, author of Who killed Hammarskjöld?, Bengt Rösiö, Sweden’s ambassador to the Congo at the time, Jan Eliasson, the current UN Deputy Secretary-General, Björn Virving, author of Termitstacken, Sven-Göran Hallonquist, son of the plane’s pilot, Captain Pär-Erik Hallonquist and well as Timothy Kankasa and Dickson Buleni, both witnesses and Mama Kankasa, Timothy’s mother.

17 May - Remarkable Hammarskjöld archive links to this website

Remarkable Hammarskjöld archive links to this website
We have now added the remarkable archive relating to Dag Hammarskjöld’s death maintained by Björn Virving, son of Bo Virving, who was Technical Manager of Transair, the  owner of the aircraft which carried Dag Hammarskjöld from Leopoldville in the Congo to Ndola in Northern Rhodesia. Bo Virving participated in the investigation of the crash and retained much documentation, some classified until recently. He died in 1982 and Björn inherited the archive. He has translated his book TERMITSTACKEN (Swedish) into English and the book in both languages together with the remarkable archive can be accessed through the links page (see TERMITSTACKEN).

8 May - Sweden marks Peace Day, discusses Dag Hammarskjöld career in the service of peace

Sweden marks Peace Day, discusses Dag Hammarskjöld career in the service of peace

The City of Gothenburg marked the 71st Peace in Europe Day marking the end of World War 2 with a large meeting held in the Domkyrkan, Gothenburg cathedral. The meeting was organised by the Church of Sweden which sought to show examples in the service of peace, especially by Dag Hammarskjöld, former UN Secretary-General. The meeting was moderated by Anders Franck, Programme Director, Gothenburg University who was joined by former Archbishop of Sweden KG Hammar, and independent researcher Hans Kristian Simensen, both former trustees of the Hammarskjöld Commission. Anders Franck asked each "what ways did you go to find Hammarskjöld and what is your relationship to him?" Their discussion can be read here.

31 March - Seminar organised by Dag Today confirms revival of interest for Hammarskjöld in Italy

Seminar organised by Dag Today confirms revival of interest for Hammarskjöld in Italy

31 March 2016 On November 16, 2015 the Italian Dag Hammarskjöld Association, Dag Today, held a seminar on Hammarskjöld’s thought, personal ethics and political and diplomatic action, under the patronage of the Embassy of Sweden, the Fondazione Centro per la Riforma dello Stato and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala.
In the seminar, it was emphasised that the thought and the actions of the Swedish statesman still have a great weight and still carry an important message, especially for those who pursue peace and development in a violent and divided world.
The meeting, which marked a revival of the interest for Hammarskjöld in Italy, was held under the banner of one of Hammarskjöld’s most important and famous phrases: “Only he deserves power who every day justifies it” which summarises well his ideals and practice both as politician and as Secretary General of the United Nations.
A summary in English of the meeting can be read here.
A full report in Italian can be read here.
The Dag Today website of the Italian Dag Hammarskjöld Association is now linked to this site.

30 March - Hammarskjöld plane crash: “We are doing everything to find out what happened” says Ban Ki moon in Sweden

Hammarskjöld plane crash: “We are doing everything to find out what happened” says Ban Ki moon in Sweden

30 March 2016 The annual Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture titled ‘Evolving Threats, Timeless Values: The United Nations In A Changing Global Landscape’ has been delivered in Stockholm City Hall by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon at the invitation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Uppsala University.  
The Secretary-General opened his address by describing Dag Hammarskjöld as a Swede through and through, but that he also belonged to the world. “I feel both privileged and humbled to be serving in the role he once filled so masterfully.”
http://static.un.org/News/dh/photos/large/2016/March/669324-ki-moon.jpg
He also referred to current developments in the search for the truth on how the plane carrying Hammarskjöld and others crashed near Ndola in 1961. “In all of our work, Dag Hammarskjöld remains a touchstone for courageous, principled action. When I visited his gravesite in Uppsala on the 50th anniversary of his death, I laid a wreath in honour of his life and reflected on the timeless example of his service. It is in recognition of that devotion that the medal we give to the families of fallen peacekeepers is named in his honour. Hammarskjöld was a private person who lived the most public of lives. We know, for example, that he carried a UN Charter with him at all times. We also know some of his innermost thoughts, as set out in ‘Markings’, his own personal code of conduct.
But there is one thing about Hammarskjöld that remains a mystery: the circumstances leading to his death -- and the deaths of those who accompanied him. We are doing everything to find out what happened” he said.
“Last year, a UN panel considered new information, including by interviewing eyewitnesses who had not been interviewed before in official inquiries. The Panel concluded that some of the new information was sufficient to warrant further consideration of whether aerial attack or other interference may have caused the crash.
I want to use this platform today to urge Member States with intelligence or other material in their archives to provide that information without delay. We must do everything to finally establish the facts and get to the bottom of this tragedy once and for all.”
The full address can be read here.

21 March - ‘A Solemn Duty’: Dag Hammarskjold and Conflict in the Congo’
Seminar held at the School of Advanced Study, University of London

‘A Solemn Duty’: Dag Hammarskjold and Conflict in the Congo’
Seminar held at the School of Advanced Study, University of London

21 March 2016 At the meeting with its title referencing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon’s declared commitment following the findings of a UN panel of experts, speakers updated the audience on his continuing efforts to uncover all available information on the fatal crash of the plane carrying his predecessor in 1961.
In opening the meeting, David Wardrop, Chairman of the United Nations Association Westminster Branch, chronicled the collective efforts by individuals worldwide in raising international awareness of the issue. This pressure encouraged the UN General Assembly to unanimously adopt two Resolutions which successfully triggered firstly the appointment of the UN Panel charged to examine existing information and secondly to support the Secretary-General pursue the matter. These efforts are fully reported in the news pages of this website.  
Professor Henning Melber, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, explained how Hammarskjöld’s commitment to global governance, social justice and international solidarity was guided by strong personal integrity and solid values. “Despite his failures and setbacks, his brand of diplomacy offers important lessons for mediators today”, Professor Melber stated. He reminded the audience that Hammarskjöld had been widely praised for the UN’s role in the Suez crisis of 1956 but that the Congo crisis, resulting in the largest UN peace operation to date and continuing today, presented different challenges. He quoted one observer ‘the Congo was simultaneously a hotbed of inter-African intrigue, a playground for the superpowers and a turning point in the decolonization process.’ Professor Melber explained how Hammarskjöld tackled his mediation task against this background, concluding that as the world’s highest international civil servant to assume global leadership, he set standards that have lost none of their value and relevance. Professor Melber’s paper Dag Hammarskjöld and Conflict Mediation (February 2016) covers his address more fully.
Dr Roger Lipsey, author of Hammarskjöld: A Life, introduced his audience to Dag Hammarskjöld’s ethic, revealed in four key aspects. These were his conscious self-scrutiny (of himself); mobile awareness and empathy (in diplomatic and public life); facing facts, total engagement and selfless service. Dr Lipsey illustrated each of these aspects of Hammarskjöld’s ethic with excerpts from his book Markings. These included ‘You can only hope to find a lasting solution to a conflict if you have learned to see the other objectively, but, at the same time, to experience his difficulties subjectively’ written in 1955. In this and other passages, one can follow more clearly the manner of Hammarskjöld’s mission in the Congo.
    Dr Lipsey, Professor Melber and David Wardrop
A lively discussion followed in which the speakers and members of the audience congratulated Ban Ki moon on his determination to ‘establish the truth of what happened on that fateful night’ but noted that despite the supportive General Assembly Resolution (19 November 2015), his term of office runs out this year. So what might his successor do? Mr Wardrop referred to the 1 for 7 Billion Campaign comprising 750 organisations and 170 million supporters worldwide, committed to getting the best Secretary-General to follow Ban Ki moon. Through this campaign, the candidates are identified and the UN has made it possible to pose them questions. Mr Wardrop told the audience he hoped that his own question “Ban Ki moon has shown great courage in pursuing the truth on Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. Although supported by most Member States, some powerful states are being slow to release relevant information. Will you guarantee to continue his courageous work?” might be among the thirty to be short-listed in April. Audience contributions included those currently researching contemporary papers deposited in the UK national archives and journalists covering Sweden and African issues. In conclusion, the speakers urged the audience to follow news reports on these pages.  
The event was jointly organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London and the United Nations Association Westminster Branch.

17 March - Leiden University seminar discusses events in the Congo at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death

Leiden University seminar discusses events in the Congo at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death

17 March 2016 The African Studies Centre of the University of Leiden organised a seminar to review the challenges facing Dag Hammarskjöld at the time of his death and to provide an update on the efforts of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon to determine the cause of his death.
Dr Henning Melber, Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, introduced his address describing the international tensions that influenced Dag Hammarskjöld at the time he sought to negotiate a peaceful settlement in the Congo. He recounted how Hammarskjold had been treated with suspicion by both the Soviet Union and western powers but nevertheless his loyalty was defined through the United Nations Charter and further, he defined his office of Secretary-General as giving life to the principles of the Charter and its normative framework. Dr Melber added that Hammarskjöld could also be seen as the ‘Secretary-General for the decolonisation of Africa’, referring to several of his speeches in which he stressed that national sovereignty for African states was ‘non-negotiable’. The seminar can be viewed here.      

2015

19 November – Sweden, Zambia with support of Ban Ki-Moon and 73 countries agree in UN General Assembly to pursue cause of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death

Sweden, Zambia with support of Ban Ki-Moon and 73 countries agree in UN General Assembly to pursue cause of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death

19 November 2015 The Swedish ambassador, Olof Skoog, today tabled a resolution at the UN General Assembly urging fellow delegates to support further inquiries into how Dag Hammarskjöld and fellow passengers died aboard his aircraft in 1961. The resolution was drafted jointly with the delegation of Zambia and co-sponsored by seventy-four countries including 23 EU members but not the USA or UK. Mr Skoog contrasted the difference between what is known about Hammarskjöld’s contribution to the UN and his own inner thoughts and what is not known about the cause of his death. The resolution was adopted.

The resolution encourages the UN Secretary-General to explore the feasibility of establishing a central archival holding all information pertaining to the plane crash, as proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Independent Panel of Experts Panel led by Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania which reported to him in June (Report 20 July). It also urges all Members States, in particular those addressed in the report of the Independent Panel of Experts, to release to the Secretary-General any relevant records in their possession. It is understood that Ban Ki-Moon has made specific requests for such information from the USA, the UK, France and South Africa.

In his supportive statement (18 November), the Secretary-General reaffirmed that “he 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, and will inform the Assembly on any further progress made before the end of its seventieth session.”

The UN Panel set up by Ban Ki-Moon identified several clear lines of inquiry to be followed up. These were:
(a) The credibility of nine new Zambian eyewitnesses who claimed to observe more than one aircraft in the air at the same time as SE-BDY (Hammarskjöld’s plane) made its approach to Ndola, and that any additional aircraft were jets, or that SE-BDY was on fire before it impacted the ground or that it was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by other aircraft present;
(b) Claims by two American service personnel, based in Cyprus and in Greece respectively, who claimed to hear intercepts or read transcripts of intercepts of radio transmissions relating to a possible aerial or ground attack on SE-BDY;
(c) Additional information that has emerged on the air capability of the provincial government of Katanga in 1961 and its use of foreign military and paramilitary personnel;
(d) The possibility that communications sent from the CX-52 cryptographic machine used by Mr. Hammarskjöld were intercepted;
(e) The possibility of crew fatigue and
(f) Additional information that calls into question the official account of the time of discovery of the crash site and the behaviour of various officials and local authorities.    

In pursuing the matter, the resolution has flagged the determination of Sweden and Zambia to ensure the UN General Assembly does not lose sight of the matter, requesting that “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him” be included in next year’s provisional agenda. In September, Ban Ki-Moon made clear his own determination to pursue the matter, at a wreath-laying ceremony at the UN in New York (Report 15 September).

In a separate development, on 17 November, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter referred to recent research undertaken at the National Archives in Kew, London, which it claims will lead to further questions to the British government. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) had claimed in its submission to the UN Panel that it had ‘co-ordinated a search across all relevant UK departments. None of these departments have identified any pertinent material.' However, as observed in an earlier Report (20 July), this explanation cannot be deemed satisfactory as it does not appear to include information held by the security and intelligence agencies, MI6, MI5 and GCHQ which are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.

Also reported in Dagens Nyheter, Archbishop Emeritus K G Hammar, former head of the Church of Sweden and a member of the Hammarskjöld Commission until it closed in 2014, recalled his own visit to the crash site in 2011 and meeting eye witnesses. “There is no reason for these old people to lie and it seems that the UN Panel of Experts listened to these people (and) have been just as convinced (as I was)”. Archbishop Hammar accused the UK of maintaining a post-colonial stance, stating “I am not so hopeful that somebody will put on the table evidence which says who did it and who was behind it. However I reckon that we who have been pushing this question have rewritten history, the one which says it was a tragic air accident. At the same time it is difficult to understand that this should be Big Powers politics 50 years later.”

15 September - Ban Ki-Moon lays wreath, reminding new General Assembly of his intentions

Ban Ki-Moon lays wreath, reminding new General Assembly of his intentions

15 September 2015 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has laid a wreath in memory of former SG Dag Hammarskjöld who died 54 years ago, just hours before the opening of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (front) speaks after he laid a wreath in memory of the second UN ...Speaking to diplomats in the Meditation Room* at the United Nations Headquarters, he referred to the plane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others died and to his appointment in January of a panel of experts to re-examine the circumstances of that crash, Ban Ki-Moon stated "In this 70th anniversary year of the United Nations, establishing the truth of what happened on that fateful night would be a fitting tribute to the former secretary-general and all those who lost their lives on a mission of peace." The ceremony was attended by Sweden's Ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog who spoke about the lasting memories many Swedes have of Hammarskjold, who described the day Hammarskjöld died as Sweden's "John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela moment." (Xinhua Agency)

In July 2015, Ban Ki-Moon urged those Member States which continued to withhold documents which might have assisted the UN Panel to disclose, declassify or otherwise allow privileged access to information that they may have in their possession related to the crash. He stated that he would request the UN’s Legal Counsel to pursue these and to report back to him. To facilitate this process, he suggested setting up a central archive that would enable access by the UN and other authorised parties to ensure their continued and enhanced preservation and access, even if access is only possible to an ‘eminent person or persons whom the General Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.’

Observers believe that by drawing international attention to this wreath-laying ceremony, Ban Ki-Moon is making it clear that he will not let this matter lie and that a statement on the matter should be expected.

* The Meditation Room, the ‘Room of Quiet’ was personally planned and supervised by Dag Hammarskjöld in 1957, replacing a smaller room included in the original plan for the new UN Headquarters. It is dedicated to silence, where people can withdraw into themselves, regardless of their faith, creed or religion.

20 July - Ban Ki Moon receives Report from Independent Panel of Experts and pledges to pursue the truth in determining how Dag Hammarskjöld died in 1961

Ban Ki Moon receives Report from Independent Panel of Experts and pledges to pursue the truth in determining how Dag Hammarskjöld died in 1961

20 July 2015 The UN Panel set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to ‘examine and assess new information relating to the airplane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld and others died’ submitted its Report in June. The Secretary-General has now made this public together with assurance of his determination to reach the truth as far as it is possible. The Report summarises new information, much gathered from the exhaustive independent Hammarskjöld Commission Report (2013) which triggered the UN General Assembly resolution to revisit the issue and to fund the work of the UN Panel.

The Panel’s Report classed new information on levels of probative value; nil, weak, moderate and strong. It dismissed outright many theories on how Hammarskjöld’s plane (SE-BDY) came to crash but assigned ‘moderate’ probative value to several observations including the following:
(a) Nine new Zambian eyewitnesses who claimed to observe more than one aircraft in the air at the same time as SE-BDY made its approach to Ndola, and that any additional aircraft were jets, or that SE-BDY was on fire before it impacted the ground or that it was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by other aircraft present;
(b) Claims by two American service personnel, based in Cyprus and in Greece respectively, who claimed to hear intercepts or read transcripts of intercepts of radio transmissions relating to a possible aerial or ground attack on SE-BDY;
(c) Additional information that has emerged on the air capability of the provincial government of Katanga in 1961 and its use of foreign military and paramilitary personnel;
(d) The possibility that communications sent from the CX-52 cryptographic machine used by Mr. Hammarskjöld were intercepted;
(e) The possibility of crew fatigue and
(f) Additional information that calls into question the official account of the time of discovery of the crash site and the behaviour of various officials and local authorities.

The Panel concluded that information with sufficient probative value should lead a further inquiry to pursue aerial attack or other interference as a hypothesis of the possible cause of the crash. In particular, it specifically concluded that the new eyewitness testimony, the claims of alleged intercepts and the new information concerning the air capability of the Katangan forces, as mentioned in (a) to (c) above, “may also provide an appreciable lead in pursuing the truth of the probable cause or causes of the air crash and tragic deaths”.

Ban Ki Moon recognises that ‘further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts. Such an inquiry or investigation would, however, be in a better position to reach a conclusive finding with the benefit of the specific information requested by the Panel from the Member States concerned.’

Noting that several States continue to withhold documents which might have assisted the UN Panel, he urged these to disclose, declassify or otherwise allow privileged access to information that they may have in their possession related to the crash. To this end, he has requested the UN’s Legal Counsel to pursue these and to report back to him.

States withholding documents include the UK and the USA. In responding to the UN Panel, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) replied that it had ‘co-ordinated a search across all relevant UK departments. None of these departments have identified any pertinent material.' However, observers comment that, as the security and intelligence agencies, MI6, MI5, GCHQ, are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation, the FCO search cannot be deemed exhaustive. The response from the USA can be described similarly and those from the governments of Belgium, France and South Africa also invite renewed pursuit by Ban Ki Moon’s representatives.

In the meantime, he has suggested setting up a central archive that would enable access by the UN and other authorised parties to ensure their continued and enhanced preservation and access, even if access is only possible to an ‘eminent person or persons whom the General Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.’ It is clear that the Secretary-General will not let this lie.

Background

The UN Panel comprising Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman (Tanzania), aviation specialist Kerryn Macaulay (Australia) and ballistics expert Henrik Larsen (Denmark) has interviewed informants in the USA, UK, Sweden and Zambia.

Over more than fifty years, much new information has emerged. The book Who Killed Hammarskjöld (2011) by Susan Williams provides a useful guide to key documents and to rival theories and led to the setting up of the independent Hammarskjöld Commission comprising distinguished retired jurists. The 2013 Report of the Commission persuaded Ban Ki-moon to seek agreement from the UN General Assembly to set up the new Panel.

For the Hammarskjöld Commission Report, see http://www.hammarskjoldcommission.org

1 July - Is Ban Ki-moon’s Panel on Hammarskjöld’s death running out of time to properly complete its report?

Is Ban Ki-moon’s Panel on Hammarskjöld’s death running out of time to properly complete its report?

I June 2015 Observers following the progress of the Hammarskjöld Panel appointed by UN S-G Ban Kimoon to examine new information on the death of former S-G Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961 fear that it might have to compromise its programme as its budget extends only to 30 June 2015, when it must present its report. The Panel, with the remit of evaluating the new information for its probative value, began its work as recently as April, thus allowing for barely three months of investigation.

The Panel members are eminent experts in highly relevant disciplines. However, observers point to key issues which the Panel’s report might not have time to address adequately. One issue is that the Panel needs to understand the colonial mindset and context of British-ruled Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in which the original UN Inquiry of 1961-62 was conducted.

There is understandable sensitivity that in re-opening the Inquiry, the UN needs to show due recognition of the treatment of colonised nations in Africa and of the conduct of the superpowers at the time of the accident. A number of African eye witness accounts of aircraft movements over Ndola airport at the time of the crash challenged official reports – and these accounts were disregarded as inherently unreliable by the original UN Inquiry, reiterating the approach of the inquiries by the colonial authorities. The release of various documents many years later supports their recollection. It follows that their claims to have witnessed extraordinary sightings in the sky, dismissed at the time, should be re-examined fully. The Panel visited Ndola to interview eye witnesses but observers worry that the Panel will have had insufficient time to listen carefully to all witnesses, to set them in context, and to reach any conclusions.

In addition, it is important to know whether or not the Panel is getting traction for S-G Ban Ki-moon’s request to Member States for the release of ‘any relevant records in their possession’. The US government has not released into the public domain relevant documentation held by CIA, NSA and the State Department, even though these records are well over 50 years old. Nor has the UK government released any material held by MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, even though an MI6 official was at Ndola for six days surrounding the crash in activities relating to Hammarskjöld’s visit. Belgium, France and South Africa may also hold relevant files, as may the UN itself. What records have the Panel seen? How comprehensive have the disclosures been? Are those records now available to the public?

The Panel will surely not be able to write an authoritative report on the probative value of the new evidence unless all relevant documentation has been released by the countries involved.

Budgetary issues appear to be driving the UN Panel’s agenda. With only US$500, 000 to spend, its work must complete by the end of June and it is this finance-driven deadline that worries observers. In the UK, the recent conclusion of investigations into the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy of 1989 illustrates that such exercises can lead to great expenditure but, at the same time, it is important to the community that closure is both authoritative and transparent. “We owe it to the deceased, to their families and relatives, and also to the wider global community, to undertake everything possible to establish the truth. To those who insist it is a waste of time to review such events from history, we would argue that the injustice felt at the time still resonates today” said David Wardrop, Chairman of United Nations Association Westminster branch, co-ordinator of the international campaign to re-open the Inquiry. “At a time when critics of the UN System and its Member States challenge its determination to manifest the principle of transparency, it is on such issues that it and they will be judged.”

Background

The UN Panel comprises Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman (Tanzania), aviation specialist Kerryn Macaulay (Australia) and ballistics expert Henrik Larsen (Denmark).

Over more than fifty years, much new information has emerged. The book Who Killed Hammarskjöld (2011) by Susan Williams provides a useful guide to key documents and to rival theories and led to the setting up of the independent and international Hammarskjöld Commission, comprising distinguished retired jurists. The 2013 Report of the Commission persuaded Ban Ki-moon to seek agreement from the UN General Assembly to set up the new Panel.

For the Hammarskjöld Commission Report, see http://www.hammarskjoldcommission.org

16 April - Hammarskjöld panel of experts starts its work

Hammarskjöld panel of experts starts its work

16 April 2015 UNA Westminster welcomes news that the independent panel of experts to examine new information that has emerged on the death of Hammarskjöld has commenced its work. The panel comprises Mr. Mohamed Chande Othman (United Republic of Tanzania) as Head of the Panel; Ms. Kerryn Macaulay (Australia); and Mr. Henrik Larsen (Denmark).

The panel has been given until 30 June to examine and assess the probative value of all new information. It is hoped that the panel’s work will benefit through the release by Member States of any relevant records in their possession. The principal source document for the panel’s work will be the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission (see below) which is underpinned by a great amount of supportive material, already submitted to the panel.

Further independent analysis of records of aircraft movements over the critical hours of the time of the crash of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane continues. Efforts to dispel suggestions of conspiracy and foul play causing the crash have been hindered by contradictory evidence on this issue when presented to the initial official Inquiries.

UNA Westminster urges all who believe they can contribute useful information to help the panel to do so. Even though for decades, fanciful theories may seem to have exhausted any further options, the gradual release of archives by several governments has cast new light on the matter. But despite the request by the UN Secretary-General for the release by Member States of any relevant records in their possession, UNA Westminster remains concerned that this request will not be honoured. We await the report of the panel.

To follow developments so far, please use this excellent Timeline provided by the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library. This includes the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission.

If you wish to communicate with the panel, please write to:
The Legal Counsel
Office of Legal Affairs
United Nations
405 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
USA

2014

31 December - Commentaries on the UN General Assembly’s decision of 30 December

Commentaries on the UN General Assembly’s decision of 30 December

31 December Following the decision of the UN General Assembly to support the resolution to re-open the Inquiry into the death of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, two members of the Hammarskjöld Commission[1] have commented on developments.


Ambassador Hans Corell (above), formerly Under-SecretaryGeneral for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel of the United Nations, was interviewed on the Swedish Radio News Channel, P1 Morgen. Also, Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen, who served as a judge of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, was interviewed on Netherlands Radio.

Recent media coverage worldwide includes the authoritative contribution by Claudia Antunes who reports for the Brazilian journal PIAUÍ. Joe Lauria, Wall Street Journal, who has followed the story closely since the publication of the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission in September 2013, contributed his article on 29 December (WSJ subscribers only).

[I] Members of the Hammarskjöld Commission
The Rt Hon. Sir Stephen Sedley (Chair), UK
Ambassador Hans Corell, Sweden
Judge Richard Goldstone, South Africa
Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen, Netherlands

For the Report, see http://www.hammarskjoldcommission.org

30 December - UN General Assembly agrees by consensus to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others

UN General Assembly agrees by consensus to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others

30 December The UN General Assembly has by consensus of all 193 nations adopted a resolution to re-open the Inquiry into the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.

The resolution reads as follows:
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962,
Acknowledging the report of the Commission of Jurists on the Inquiry into the Death of Dag Hammarskjöld,
Considering the note by the Secretary-General with his assessment that the report of the Hammarskjöld Commission includes new evidence,
1.Requests the Secretary-General to appoint an independent panel of experts to examinenew information and to assess its probative value;
2.Encourages Member States to release any relevant records in their possession and toprovide to the Secretary-General relevant information related to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him;
3.Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventieth sessionon the progress made.

The panel of experts will set out to examine new information that has emerged during the intervening years. Also, it is requested to “assess the probative value” of that information, after the Secretary-General submitted a note that included his assessment that the report of the Commission of Jurists on the Inquiry into Mr. Hammarskjöld’s death includes new evidence.

Member States are encouraged to release any relevant records in their possession and to provide relevant information related to the death of Mr. Hammarskjöld and others accompanying him on the aircraft that crashed in what is today Zambia on the night of 17-18 September 1961.

15 December - Sweden introduces draft resolution for the UN General Assembly to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others

Sweden introduces draft resolution for the UN General Assembly to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others

15 December The UN General Assembly heard Sweden’s Ambassador Per Thöresson introduce a draft resolution on investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those on board his flight. He stated that he spoke with the support 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 Sweden.

He stated that ‘Hammarskjöld’s tenure, marked by vision and pragmatism, 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. He conceived the concept of preventive diplomacy, and set ground-breaking examples for the Secretary-General’s direct diplomatic engagement.’

He referred to General Assembly resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962 which considered the UN inquiry’s report of the crash and requested the Secretary-General to inform it of any new evidence relating to the disaster. Following Ban Ki-moon’s recognition of such as provided by the Hammarskjöld Commission, and his suggestion that the General Assembly consider three different options to examine this, Mr Thöresson tabled a brief draft 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. In his speech, the ambassador thanked several Member States, especially Zambia*.

The financial implications of the resolution will be considered by the Fifth Committee later this week.

[* Mama Chibesa Kankasa, a witness to events at the time of the accident and later, a member of Zambia’s Central Committee in Charge of Women's Affairs, referred to UNA Westminster’s campaign in her powerful supportive letter to her country’s Foreign Minister.]

3 December - Irish ‘Congo vet’ urges Dublin to support re-opening of Inquiry

The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December

Irish ‘Congo vet’ urges Dublin to support re-opening of Inquiry

John Wickham who served with C Company, 38th Battalion, of the Irish Defence Forces deployed to the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) has met HE Mr Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador in London, to urge that Ireland participate in the UN General Assembly debate on 15 December.


Mr Wickham, who over many years has followed closely the various reports and analyses relating to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, and Mr Mulhall discussed how the ONUC mission in which there were 27 Irish fatalities, witnessed Ireland’s Defence Forces come of age and take its place on the internatio-nal stage. This difficult and traumatic mission in which the Irish troops’ performance and even-handedness in dealing with all parties was highly praised, earned them a new respect within the UN. Noting that many Irish citizens like himself will remember their own experiences in the Congo, Mr Wickham urged that Ireland had a moral obligation to show both its own citizens, young and old, that it truly wishes to determine what happened at Ndola where the plane carrying Dag Hammarskjöld and fifteen others crashed.

Mr Mulhall asked questions concerning the Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission in discussion with David Wardrop who also attended the meeting. Mr Wardrop chairs the United Nations Association Westminster Branch which is co-ordinating efforts to encourage UN Member States to participate in the debate on 15 December. Mr Mulhall agreed to take forward Mr Wickham’s requests and to keep informed of developments.

26 November - Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December

The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December

Leading Swedish personalities urge their government to take a leading role

24 leading Swedes have announced their support for the initiative to ensure the UN General Assembly decides on 15 December to re-open the inquiry into the circumstances of Dag Hammarskjöld's death. In their letter (26 November), they write as Swedish citizens to urge their government to take a leading role in seeking the truth. They argue that ‘Sweden has an ethical obligation to show both its own citizens and the whole world that it truly wishes to determine what happened at Ndola and also emphasise solidarity and sympathy with those from Sweden and other nations who each year risk, and in many cases sacrifice, their lives in the service of the United Nations and for the ideals for peace that Dag Hammarskjöld personified.

The signatories include Lasse Berg, Ove Bring, Terry Carlbom, Marika Griehsel, Bengt Gustafsson, KG Hammar, Anders Hellberg, Göran Hyden, Christer Jönsson, Birgitta Karlström Dorph, Henning Mankell, Henning Melber, Thandika Mkandawire, Peter Nobel, Jan Axel Nordlander, Alex Obote-Odora, Stina Oscarson, Rolf Rembe, Sten Rylander, Pierre Schori, Peter Wallensteen, Peter Weiderud, Anki Wood and Pål Wrange.

21 November - Carl Bildt: the NSA documents are ‘of no importance’ (Dagens Nyheter)

The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December

Carl Bildt: the NSA documents are ‘of no importance’ (Dagens Nyheter)
[from Dagens Nyheter, 21 November – see note at end of article]

According to former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Sweden has already accessed some of the classified documents held by the US National Security Agency (NSA) which it is claimed could solve the mystery of Dag Hammarskjöld's death. This information was “trivial and without meaning' he said. “That is why the former government did not push the question further at the UN.”

On Thursday, Dagens Nyheter reported that Sweden had reviewed the Hammarskjöld question and that its new government is thinking of submitting a new resolution at the UN seeking to bring clarity to the cause of death of the former Secretary General. This moves away from the policy of the former Reinfeldt Government which did not push the question at the UN and was accused of being too passive.

Dagens Nyheter can now reveal that Sweden did access the classified NSA documents which the independent Hammarskjöld Commission identified last year as important for the case. The Commission had requested access to the documents but the response had been negative.

This revelation is surprising bearing in mind that the USA had not formally decided to reveal what the documents contain. This is discouraging for those who had hoped that these documents could solve the fifty year-plus mystery of the air crash at Ndola which took the lives of Hammarskjöld and fifteen others. At the time of the crash, the NSA was conducting surveillance in the area.

According to Bildt, the decision not to push the question further at the UN was founded on there being no new information. He offered the opinion that the Hammarskjöld Commission had based so much of its Report on the contents of the NSA documents, it was important for his government to find out as much as possible about them. Other countries including Great Britain and Belgium were also asked for relevant information but all reported that everything has been put on the table. Carl Bildt stated that he had informed the new government which, despite this information, had chosen a different line at the UN.

“I think nobody would have any objections to a new investigation other than the question of whether there is sufficient new information to justify this. Whether the new government has found any new information I don't know” Bildt told Dagens Nyheter.

The new Cabinet Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, Annika Söder, has defended the approach of the new government. She stated that the NSA documents are only are two of innumerable documents and other pieces of information that must be investigated. These might be held in other archives and comprise witness statements from Africans living close to the crash site who were not called to testify in the investigations immediately following the crash.

With the new information identified by the Hammarskjöld Commission, she stated that there was every reason to go to the UN, the correct body to explore the new evidence. Also she emphasised that if Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, considers the matter should be looked into, one should take this seriously, especially on behalf of the relatives of those who died. “This is a UN concern and not a Swedish concern. Why should we play detectives when there is an existing system and process which the world community society to take forward?” she asked.

The Foreign Office is currently drafting the required Resolution in time for when the Hammarskjöld question is debated by the UN General Assembly on December 15.

This article by Jens Littoren was published in the Swedish journal Dagens Nyheter on 21 November. It has been translated by HK Simensen and David Wardrop and should not be taken as an official document. For the original, see http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/bildt-nsas-dokument-inte-av-vikt/

19 Novemeber - New Swedish government changes stance on death of Dag Hammarskjöld

The Hammarskjöld Commission Report:
Ensuring a UN General Assembly debate on 15 December

New Swedish government changes stance on death of Dag Hammarskjöld
[from Dagens Nyheter, 19 November – see note at end of article]

Sweden will now actively push for a review of the circumstances surrounding the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961. By this move, the new government abandons the Reinfeldt administration’s passive stance on the issue. "It is the obligation of the Government of Sweden to try to bring clarity," said Foreign Ministry State Secretary Annika Söder.

On 15 December, Dag Hammarskjold's death is scheduled to be debated by the UN General Assembly. New information has been received including that which refers to the plane crash in which Hammarskjöld died. The General Assembly will decide whether the case should be re-examined and, if so, in what manner.

Dagens Nyheter understands that, earlier this year, Swedish Foreign Office documents showed that the Reinfeldt government did not intend to push for a new review. The incoming government takes a different line. Annika Söder confirms that Sweden will present a resolution when the matter is discussed by the General Assembly and speaks of the country’s moral obligation. “For us it is a matter of clarity. We have way too many great men and women who have died without sufficient clarity. This is about our own countrymen who perished and also for their families. If Sweden does not take this initiative, I do not think any other country will do it.” said Söder.

The question of the Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's death continues to fascinate. Dagens Nyheter has followed developments in pursuit of the truth. Also involved is a British lord, an archbishop and writers also have had key roles.

In September last year, the Hammarskjöld Commission comprising independent jurists presented its report with new information about the plane crash in Ndola which cost the then Secretary-General Hammarskjöld and another 15 people, including eight Swedes. It identified several classified documents, which the US National Security Agency (NSA) appears unwilling to disclose. Earlier this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged all UN Member States to release all relevant documents, supporting the case for re-opening the investigation. He gave three options; allowing an expert panel reviewing the new information; to open the UN inquiry from 1961-62 again; to start a new investigation.

The Swedish government is currently preparing the text of the necessary resolution. It is clear that Sweden will co-sponsor the first proposal because they believe it makes it easier to get support from other countries.

“Naturally, we could go straight to a new investigation,” said Foreign Ministry State Secretary Annika Söder “but we believe this is the way to get the most information. Also, it is not only archive data from different countries which is important but also testimonials, especially from the Africans residing at the site for the crash, which was not properly heard in the 60's.” She believes that there are good prospects that the resolution adopted by the General Assembly.

Annika Söder, the Foreign Ministry's top official, was the former head of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala but claims the new Swedish line has nothing to do with her former position. “I followed these developments when I was working for the Foundation but we have not devoted ourselves the question of Hammarskjöld's death. However, the Foundation's mission is to manage his political legacy. This initiative has been driven by a Swedish wish for open policy making.”

The previous government had previously been criticized for failing to act to bring further clarity about the plane crash. Former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his colleagues have referred to the one-man inquiry conducted in 1993 which concluded that the crash was probably due to pilot error. Relatives of the victims have interpreted the Foreign Ministry's inaction to reflect its sensitivity to the opinions of other countries. However, Söder does not think that the proposed review should be seen sensitive to Sweden.

This article by Jens Littoren was published in the Swedish journal Dagens Nyheter on 19 November. It has been translated by HK Simensen and David Wardrop and should not be taken as an official document. For the original, http://www.unt.se/asikt/debatt/utred-hans-ode-nu-3450820.aspx