Secure our Dad’s release from death row, family urges Foreign Office
January 24, 2017
A British family has urged a senior Foreign Office minister visiting Ethiopia this week to secure the release of their father from death row.
Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood is believed to be attending a summit later this week in Ethiopia; a country with which the UK has a close bilateral relationship. Mr Ellwood told MPs last month that during the visit, he would raise widespread concerns over the situation of Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege.
Mr Tsege, a British father of three from London, is held under sentence of death, after he was kidnapped and illegally rendered to Ethiopia by the country’s forces in 2014. Mr Tsege is a prominent figure in Ethiopian opposition politics, and his ordeal appears to be linked to a broad crackdown on dissent by Ethiopia’s authorities.
Mr Tsege’s partner and children in London, and the human rights organization Reprieve, have written to Mr Ellwood, asking him to use his Ethiopia visit to seek Mr Tsege’s return to the UK.
An Ethiopian court sentenced Mr Tsege to death in absentia in 2009, in proceedings that US diplomats said were “lacking basic elements of due process.” Internal Foreign Office correspondence has suggested that there is no credible evidence to support Mr Tsege’s detention.
The Government has so far refused to seek Mr Tsege’s return to Britain, instead asking the Ethiopian authorities for consular access, and for Mr Tsege to be allowed to see a lawyer. Ethiopian officials have told the Foreign Office that Mr Tsege has no prospect of appealing his death sentence.
In a letter to the Foreign Office, Mr Tsege’s partner Yemi wrote: “As you know, Andy is held in Ethiopia, under a political death sentence imposed while he was living in London with me and our three children. I don’t have to explain how heartbroken we are, and how the life of our family has been turned upside down in the last two years. Spending a third Christmas without Andy was particularly difficult for us.
“I am at a loss as to why the UK Government has not protested Andy’s ordeal more forcefully – and why the FCO will not seek his return home”.
The UN, the European Parliament, and several MPs have all called openly for Mr Tsege’s release.
Commenting, Maya Foa – a director at Reprieve, which assists Andy Tsege – said:
“The UK government needs to stand up for this British father of three, who was kidnapped abroad and now faces execution in Ethiopia. The Foreign Office must urgently listen to Andy’s family, and use this week’s visit to secure his return home to London. If our government fail him, then Brits abroad just aren’t safe anymore.”
Notes to Editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 7792 351 660. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.
2. Further detail on Mr Tsege’s case can be found on the Reprieve website, here, while letters from his family and Reprieve to the UK Government are available on request.
3. Mr Ellwood’s comments to MPs were made on 20th December, during a debate on Mr Tsege and other Britons held abroad. A transcript is available here.