DfID faces questions over “high risk” aid to Brit’s Ethiopian kidnappers

November 1, 2014

Image of hands hanging on the bars of a prison cell

The Department for International Development (DfID) is facing accusations of a cover-up over UK security aid to Ethiopia, as concerns grow over the fate of a Briton in secret Ethiopian detention.

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. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has refused to say whether the state plans to execute Mr Tsege or not.

Legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Tsege’s family, has written to DfID Secretary of State Justine Greening, asking her to clarify the status of the £27 million Community Security and Justice Project (CSJ) in light of Mr Tsege’s illegal abduction and detention. Details of the programme appear to have been removed from the DfID website, while subsequent reports suggest it has since been cancelled.

Departmental documents from earlier this year, now removed from the Government website, classed the project as “particularly high risk from a human rights perspective,” but note that “the Ethiopians view the UK as their partner of choice in the security sector” – raising concerns that UK aid funds could have enabled Mr Tsege’s ordeal.

The removal of the documents from the public domain comes weeks after the disappearance of references to another DfID-funded programme involving MSc-level training for senior members of the Ethiopian military – described internally as a “key programme with which [the CSJ] will interact.” A DfID source claimed days ago that the MSc had been “cancelled” due to concerns about “risk and value for money.”

A damning report this week by Amnesty International found that the Ethiopian regime has “ruthlessly targeted” perceived dissenters such as Mr Tsege, while research by Human Rights Watch has shown that political detainees are routinely subjected to serious abuses in order to extract ‘confessions’.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty team said: “Ethiopian security forces are responsible for the kidnap, torture and death sentence of British national, Andy Tsege. Instead of dodging questions and then secretly shelving embarrassing programmes, DfID should be explaining why it was using taxpayers’ money to fund these forces in the first place – and what safeguards, if any, it put in place to ensure this “high risk” funding did not enable abuses of the kind suffered by Mr Tsege.

“Instead, while Mr Tsege is held in a secret prison in Ethiopia under sentence of death, DfID has inexplicably scrubbed all traces of this funding from its website, and has stonewalled questions about it at every turn. The Government should be using its extensive influence in Ethiopia to ensure the safety of one of its nationals, not aiding the very forces responsible for his detention – then removing the evidence.”

ENDS

Notes to editors 1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk / 07792 351 660 2. Copies of Reprieve’s correspondence with DfID are available on request.