Brit marks one year in illegal Ethiopian detention, under sentence of death
June 23, 2015
Today sees a 60-year-old father of three from London mark one year of illegal detention at the hands of the Ethiopian authorities.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a British citizen, has been held at a secret location since his abduction from a flight which landed in Yemen on 23 June 2014, and subsequent rendition to Ethiopia. Mr Tsege is under sentence of death, which was handed down in absentia in 2009; he has been denied access to a lawyer, and the British Ambassador has never been allowed to visit him at his place of detention, or even been allowed to know where he’s held.
On the rare occasions when Mr Tsege has been allowed consular access, the meetings have taken place at locations away from the detention site, and in the presence of guards and/or Ethiopian state officials, meaning he has been unable to speak openly about his mistreatment.
International legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Tsege, believes that he is being held due to his involvement in Ethiopian opposition politics. Human Rights Watch has reported that “during 2014, [Ethiopia] intensified its campaign of arrests, prosecutions, and unlawful force to silence criticism,” in the run-up to elections which saw the Government win an overwhelming majority last month.
Concerns over Mr Tsege’s health and mistreatment have been raised after the Ethiopian authorities released videos of him appearing gaunt and disorientated, in which he apparently ‘confesses’ to a number of offences. Reports of the use of torture by the Ethiopian authorities to extract ‘confessions’ from political prisoners have been widespread; Reprieve is concerned that it is likely that Mr Tsege has been tortured, but has been unable to report it due to being denied proper consular access – in violation of international law.
Last week, the British Government said in a statement provided to AFP that “The Foreign Secretary is extremely concerned about Andargachew Tsege’s continued detention. That is why he has raised his case with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister on 13 separate occasions,” adding, “We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsege being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “One week of the mistreatment Andy has suffered would be too long – but one year is truly intolerable. Sentenced to death in absentia, he has suffered kidnap, rendition and likely torture, while – to add insult to injury – he has been paraded in the Ethiopian Government’s sick propaganda videos. British concern is welcome, but Ethiopia has so far largely ignored the UK’s requests – David Cameron must up the pressure and insist that Andy is returned home to his family without delay.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald [DOT] Campbell [AT] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 7791 755 415
2. HRW’s 2015 report on a ‘crackdown’ against dissent can be found here.
3. Full results of May’s election were expected sometime this month, but according to Reuters, “the provisional count suggested that the opposition, which won just one seat in the last parliament, had yet to claim a single seat in those declared so far.”
4. For further information on the torture of political prisoners, see for example: ‘Ethiopia police “torture and abuse” political prisoners,’ BBC News, 18 October 2013: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24576942
5. The UK’s recent statement on Mr Tsege’s case can be found here: ‘Ethiopia-British leader on death row ‘might’ escape execution: govt,’ AFP, 18 June 2015.