Children of abducted Brit tell PM: bring our Dad back

October 24, 2014

The young children of a Briton who was kidnapped and rendered in secret to Ethiopia have begged the Prime Minister to take action on his case, as he enters his fifth month of detention.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege (59), a father of three from London, has been held in a secret location in Ethiopia since his kidnap by authorities at Sanaa airport, Yemen, on 23 June 2014. Mr Tsege, who is a founding member of an Ethiopian opposition party, now faces a death sentence imposed in absentia. The incident appears to be part of a sweeping political crackdown ahead of elections in the country next year.

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. Torture is widespread in Ethiopian prisons, and there are serious concerns about Mr Tsege’s treatment in detention.

Mr Tsege’s seven-year-old twins have written to David Cameron describing how much they miss their “kind, loving and caring dad”, and asking “What are you doing to get [him] out of jail?” Mr Tsege’s 15-year-old daughter wrote: “Please, please, please (!) bring him back soon. We miss him so much.”

In response, Mr Cameron wrote of the Government’s ‘deep concern’ about the case, and said he has asked for ‘assurance that the death penalty […] will not be imposed”. 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.

Andy’s partner Yemi Hailemariam said: “These four months have been agonising – waking up every day not knowing where Andy is, or how he’s being treated, is taking a terrible toll on my children and myself. The Prime Minister has told our family that he is taking action, but it seems like next to nothing is being done to get Andy back. The children and I need him here with us in London. The Government must demand his return, before it’s too late.”

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Four months on from Andy’s abduction by the Ethiopians, the Prime Minister says he is ‘concerned’ – but where is the outrage at this flagrant breach of international law, and the ongoing abuse of a British citizen? Andy’s small children are terrified of losing their father, his partner is desperate with worry, and we are no closer to seeing Andy released and returned to safety. Enough delays – we need firm action now to bring him home to London.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve [DOT] org [DOT] uk / +44 207 553 8160

2. View a petition from the family calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to do all he can to free Mr Tsege.

3. The children’s letters to the Prime Minister can be read here and here.

4. Copies of Reprieve and the family’s correspondence with the UK Government are available upon request.