News in Brief 29 July 2016 (PM)

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Street scene in downtown Banjul, The Gambia. File Photo: IRIN/Nicholas Reader

Human rights concerns over opposition imprisonment in Gambia

The recent mass imprisonment of opposition members in Gambia has raised the concern of the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

Thirty members of the United Democratic Party, including its leader, were last week sentenced to three years in jail for participating in peaceful protests in April.

OHCHR said charges against them included unlawful assembly, rioting, incitement to violence, "riotously interfering with vehicles," and holding a procession without a permit.

The UN Office said it remains "deeply concerned" that there had yet to be an impartial and independent investigation into allegations of excessive use of force during the demonstrations, and into the arrest and death in custody of the party's former secretary.

Praise for US initiative to support Central American refugees

An initiative by the United States to address the surge in people running from violence and human rights abuses in Central America has been welcomed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Measures include offering safe, legal alternatives for people to seek protection abroad via a third country.

A programme that provides protection and help to children fleeing affected countries will also be expanded.

UNHCR reports that nearly 110,000 people from Central America sought asylum in 2015, representing a more than five-fold increase in three years.

Most fled to Mexico, the US, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

The agency said it looks forward to working with regional Governments to address what it considers a "looming refugee crisis."

Refugee runners arrive in Rio

In more news from the UN Refugee Agency:

Five members of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team have settled into the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The middle-distance runners from South Sudan arrived in the country on Friday.

Until recently, they had been living at the Kakuma refugee camp in the north-west of Kenya.

UNHCR spokesman in Brazil, Luis Fernando Godinho, who is in Rio, says the 10 athletes in the Refugee Olympic Team represent a sign of hope.

"It's an example of how refugees can overcome adversities: they can rebuild their lives, they can shape a better future, if they are given the proper options, the proper opportunities."

The other members of the team are from Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 2'34"

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