Memorial service for Bettina Goislard

Briefing Notes, 21 November 2003

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Rupert Colville to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 November 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Family, close friends and colleagues, diplomats and government officials buried Bettina Goislard on Thursday in Kabul's historic British Cemetery. The slain UNHCR aid worker was twenty-nine years-old. A private funeral service held earlier in the day was attended by her parents, brother and sister who arrived in Kabul a day earlier, as well as four government ministers.

Since arriving in Afghanistan 17 months ago, Bettina Goislard had become enamoured with the country and its people. She learned Farsi to better communicate with the Afghans with whom she worked closely, and was highly respected by local officials and the people of Ghazni. She was murdered last Sunday while going to work by two motorcycle gunmen who sprayed bullets into her vehicle, also injuring her UNHCR driver. Her assailants are now in the custody of the Afghan police.

Goislard had told her mother and close friends that she wanted to be buried in Afghanistan should something happen to her. We are deeply saddened that she got her wish, and we lost a promising young colleague so devoted to helping refugees.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting a memorial service for Goislard this Sunday in Kabul. Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane is travelling to Afghanistan to attend Sunday's service.

Following her death, we suspended activities in much of southern and eastern Afghanistan, withdrew workers from the affected provinces, and temporarily suspended all road missions throughout the country. Thirty expatriate UNHCR workers have been temporarily pulled back to Kabul or Islamabad. We also temporarily suspended operations at reception centres for returning refugees, effectively halting assistance to Afghans coming back from neighbouring Pakistan. With winter approaching and the fasting period of Ramadan in full swing, the number of returning refugees had already markedly declined. Some 570,000 Afghans have returned so far this year.

In addition to her parents, brother and sister, Goislard is survived by a nine-month-old half brother.