Ethiopia parades kidnapped Brit as Ambassador expresses concerns over wellbeing

June 17, 2015

The Government of Ethiopia has released a photo of a UK citizen detained in a secret location under sentence of death, as new concerns for his wellbeing emerge following a visit by the British Ambassador.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege – a 60-year old father of three from London – was kidnapped and rendered to a prison in an unknown location on 23 June last year, in a joint Yemeni-Ethiopian operation. Mr Tsege is a prominent figure in an Ethiopian political party and had previously been sentenced to death in absentia by the current Ethiopian Government. His kidnap from a flight passing through Yemen and subsequent detention is thought to be linked to a crackdown on the opposition, in the runup to last month’s Ethiopian elections.

Ethiopia has released a number of videos of Mr Tsege in detention, and has recently issued a photo of him visiting a major new motorway. Although the picture shows Mr Tsege smiling, his family and lawyers are concerned that it was staged. A British official who visited him in late April recorded that he appeared to be suffering from psychological problems, after nearly a year in solitary confinement.

The Ethiopian authorities refuse to let Mr Tsege see a lawyer or meet British officials without guards present, so it has been impossible so far to obtain a complete account of his treatment; but internal Foreign Office correspondence previously obtained by his partner, Yemi Hailemariam, shows that the UK Government was concerned from the outset that there was a real risk he would be tortured. Political detainees in Ethiopian prisons are routinely subjected to torture.

The Ethiopian Government continues to hold Mr Tsege in a secret prison, transporting him to a different location for the rare meetings which the Ambassador has been allowed. On several occasions, they have refused even to allow consular access by British officials to Mr Tsege, in violation of international law.

International human rights organization Reprieve is assisting Mr Tsege, and urging the British Government to push for his immediate release.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“The way in which the Ethiopian authorities are making Andy smile for the cameras, while abusing him behind closed doors, is nothing short of obscene. Despite all their attempts to stop word of his abuse getting out, his grave psychological condition now makes it undeniable. The UK Government has tolerated this appalling mistreatment of a British citizen for far too long – it is high time they demanded that he be released home to his family in London.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 207 553 8160

2. The most recent photo of Mr Tsege was published by an Ethiopian pro-Government blogger, and is dated 11 May 2015. It purports to show him visiting the Addis-Adama Expressway, a new, major road in the country which was opened in a major ceremony towards the end of 2014. The photo first appeared on the ‘Ethiopia First’ website, around half way down this page.

3. Previous Foreign Office emails obtained by Reprieve show that the UK was concerned from the start about the likelihood of Mr Tsege being subjected to physical torture.