UN report 'extremely concerned' about Burundi's new leader

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FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 file photo, Burundi Army Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye gestures to party supporters after being chosen as their presidential candidate, at a national conference for the ruling CNDD-FDD party in the rural province of Gitega, Burundi. A new report released Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, by the United Nations commission of inquiry on Burundi sees little optimism in the government of new President Evariste Ndayishimiye, saying it is "extremely concerned" that he has appointed senior officials who face international sanctions for alleged human rights abuses in the country's 2015 political turmoil. (AP Photo/Berthier Mugiraneza, File)

JOHANNESBURG – A United Nations commission of inquiry on Burundi says it is “extremely concerned" that new President Evariste Ndayishimiye has appointed senior officials who face international sanctions for alleged human rights abuses in the country’s 2015 political turmoil.

In a report released Thursday, the commission also said that targeted killings, intimidation and sexual assaults of both men and women were committed against opposition supporters ahead of the disputed May election in the East African nation.

It said children were forced to take part in ruling party meetings and even forced to vote by officials “who gave them the voting cards of deceased or exiled voters.”

Some of the abuses may constitute crimes against humanity, the report said, describing the main perpetrators as the Imbonerakure youth wing of the ruling party, police and agents of the National Intelligence Service. “They have continued to enjoy nearly total impunity,” it said.

The report singled out the sexual assaults as a common “intelligence-gathering tool” by authorities, often during detention, the pain of which is compounded by trauma related to “deeply held cultural taboos.”

President-elect Ndayishimiye was rushed into office after President Pierre Nkurunziza died in June of what the government called a heart attack. Nkurunziza led Burundi for 15 years, a rule that exploded in deadly violence in 2015 when he decided to run for a third term that critics called unconstitutional.

The abuses that followed drew international condemnation and led Burundi to leave the International Criminal Court and kick out the U.N. human rights office. An ICC investigation continues, however.

Ministers appointed by Ndayishimiye who face international sanctions are Prime Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni and security minister Gervais Ndirakobuca.