Boris Johnson must seek Brit’s return during Ethiopia visit – Reprieve

March 16, 2017

Image of Andy Tsege and family

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is to travel to Ethiopia this week, as a British man nears his 1,000th day on death row in the country.

The Foreign Office has announced that the Foreign Secretary “will be visiting Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, where he will be discussing regional security [and] prosperity.”

The visit comes amid concerns for a British father of three, Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, who has been held illegally in Ethiopia for almost 1,000 days. Mr Tsege – a vocal critic of Ethiopia’s ruling party – was kidnapped by Ethiopian forces from an international airport in June 2014, and rendered to a jail in the country. He is now held in a prison that has been dubbed “Ethiopia’s Gulag” under a sentence of death imposed in absentia in 2009.

The UK Government has failed to secure Mr Tsege’s return to the UK, and has limited itself to calling for him to receive ‘legal access’ in Ethiopia – something which has yet to happen.

British MPs and legal experts – including the former Attorney-General, Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, have protested this approach. Some 53 MPs and peers have written to the Foreign Office, calling on ministers to secure Mr Tsege’s return from unlawful detention.

In a recent letter to the Foreign Secretary, Mr Grieve, Labour’s Lord Falconer and Lib Dem peer Ken MacDonald asked him to push for “Mr Tsege’s immediate release to his family in London”. They wrote that: “The British Government’s emphasis on securing Mr Tsege a lawyer ignores statements by the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister confirming that ‘there is no appeal process’ available to Mr Tsege.”

On taking office last year, the Foreign Secretary said: “It’s very important that people should realise that when you leave Heathrow, when you leave Dover, a British citizen is basically the responsibility of the Foreign Office.”

Legal charity Reprieve, which is supporting Mr Tsege and his family in the UK, has discovered that as part of a UK-funded programme, senior members of Ethiopia’s security sector are studying for an MSc in ‘Security Sector Management.’

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said:

“Boris Johnson should not leave Ethiopia without Andy Tsege beside him on the plane.

Andy has endured 1000 days on death row for daring to criticise the Ethiopian Government, which kidnapped him in an international airport and rendered him to the country’s gulag.

“A failure to seek Andy’s return home would send a dangerous message that the UK is willing to tolerate the abuse of its citizens overseas, with no consequence for the Governments responsible.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2. Further detail on Mr Tsege’s case can be found on the Reprieve website, here.