February 11, 2016 / 5:58 PM / in 2 years

U.N. mission sends Burundi officers home over unrest

A woman gestures with stones during a protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 26, 2015.Goran Tomasevic

BANGUI (Reuters) - The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic is repatriating three military officers on suspicion they committed human rights violations during political unrest in their home country, Burundi, an internal document showed.

Ten months of violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term has left more than 400 people dead in Burundi, which emerged from an ethnically charged civil war in 2005. He won a disputed poll in July.

A fax dated Feb. 5 sent by the U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York and seen by Reuters on Thursday notified the Central African mission, MINUSCA, of the decision to send the officers home.

"(The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) has raised serious concerns about alleged human rights violations committed by the officers during the violent demonstrations in Burundi," the document stated.

Officials in Burundi, which contributes more than 1,200 soldiers and police to U.N. peacekeeping missions, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the repatriations.

It is fairly common for troops to be sent home for alleged abuses committed while serving with a U.N. mission. MINUSCA has repatriated members of several contingents amid a wave of sexual abuse and rape accusations over the last year.

However, the repatriation of troops over allegations of abuses committed in their home countries is extremely rare.

A spokesman with MINUSCA confirmed the three men were being sent home but declined to give details of the allegations against them.

"Assessments have been conducted. Following the assessments, this decision was taken," Vladimir Monteiro said. "The mission is doing everything to ensure that they return to Burundi."

Reporting by Joe Bavier

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