Minister fails to help Brit held in Ethiopia ‘gulag’

September 14, 2015

Image of Andy Tsege and his family

A Foreign Office minister who recently visited Ethiopia failed to raise the case of a British father of three who was kidnapped by Ethiopian forces 15 months ago – despite concerns for his welfare, after it emerged he has been transferred to a brutal political prison.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, from London, was abducted in transit in June 2014 and taken forcibly to Ethiopia, where he was held at a secret location for 14 months. It’s now emerged he has been moved to the political prison Kality. The prison, whose notorious ‘zones’ hold political dissidents, journalists and bloggers, has been called ‘Ethiopia’s gulag’, and there are widespread reports of torture there.

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood visited Addis Ababa in August, but in a letter to Andy’s partner Yemi, said: “I was unfortunately not able to meet Ethiopian Government representatives and so did not have an opportunity to raise Andargachew’s continued detention.”

The UK Ambassador, who has recently seen Mr Tsege in Kality, has noted that he has ‘no spare weight on him’, and was prevented from bringing to him a set of written messages from his young children in London. The meeting was the fourth time that British officials have been permitted to see Andy since his disappearance.

Andy is a well-known member of an Ethiopian opposition group, and a critic of human rights abuses by the ruling party. He was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009 in a political trial.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“It is deeply disturbing that after 14 months of incommunicado detention, Andy Tsege is still no closer to being returned home to his family in Britain. Andy is a British citizen who was kidnapped unlawfully and has been held under sentence of death – and who has been subjected to probable torture in Ethiopia for over a year. Despite this, the British government not made a single request to the Ethiopian authorities to have Andy returned home to his family in the United Kingdom, and he’s now been moved to the notorious Kality Prison, otherwise known as ‘Ethiopia’s gulag’. This is a stain on Britain’s reputation and a travesty of justice. The British government must change its position and take immediate steps to bring Andy back before it’s too late.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 207 553 8140

2. Further information about conditions at Kality prison can be found here.