UK urged to take action as abducted Brit enters 5th month of Ethiopian detention
October 23, 2014
Lawyers for the family of a Briton who was kidnapped and rendered in secret to Ethiopia have urged ministers to take action on his case, exactly four months since his abduction.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege (59), a father of three from London, has been held in incommunicado detention in Ethiopia since his kidnap by Ethiopian forces at Sanaa airport, Yemen, on 23 June 2014. Mr Tsege, who is active in the Ethiopian opposition movement, faces a death sentence, imposed in absentia.
The Ethiopian government has refused to tell British officials where it is holding Mr Tsege, or allow meaningful contact with UK consular officials or his family. The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has refused to say whether the state plans to execute Mr Tsege or not. The incident appears to be part of a sweeping political crackdown by the Ethiopian government ahead of elections next year.
Assisted by legal charity Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day, Mr Tsege’s family has initiated legal proceedings against the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for its failure to treat Mr Tsege’s abduction as a serious breach of international law. The FCO has said that Mr Tsege’s disappearance is a “questionable but not a criminal matter”, that it does not feel “entitled” to demand his return to London.
Questions remain, meanwhile, over UK security aid to the Ethiopian forces responsible for Mr Tsege’s capture. Last week, the Department for International Development (DfID) said it had ‘cancelled’ a £2m Masters programme for senior Ethiopian security officials – unearthed several weeks ago by Reprieve – due to “concerns about risk and value for money.” The Department has refused to be drawn on whether it stands by previous assessments that the Ethiopian security services are “amongst the best in the region…with regards to human rights.”
Torture is widespread in Ethiopian prisons, and political detainees such as Mr Tsege are routinely subjected to serious abuses and dismal detention conditions in order to extract ‘confessions’.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is simply unbelievable that today – exactly four months since his illegal abduction and rendition to Ethiopia – Andy Tsege remains in secret detention. Neither UK officials nor his family are any closer to knowing where he is, whether he is being tortured, or whether he will be executed. The Ethiopian government has committed a series of serious and ongoing breaches of international law against one of our citizens – yet the UK, which has strong influence in Ethiopia, claims it can do nothing to help him. Questions must now be asked about what interests the UK may be putting above the safety and life of one of its nationals.”
Notes to editors
- For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: alice.gillham@reprieve [DOT] org [DOT] uk / +44 7792 351 660
- Reprieve and Leigh Day’s pre-action legal correspondence with the FCO is available upon request.