UK “stands shoulder to shoulder” with Ethiopia, despite kidnap of British father

October 21, 2015

Africa Minister Grant Shapps MP has said that the UK stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Ethiopia, despite the Ethiopian government’s kidnap and illegal detention of a British father.

Mr Shapps delivered the keynote address today at the UK Ethiopia Trade Investment Forum, which is supported by the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Sharing a stage with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adanhom, Mr Shapps is reported to have said that “the UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ethiopia in transformational change.”

Mr Shapps’ words came as he received some 28,000 emails from members of the public, asking him to urge Ethiopia to release British father of three Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege. Ethiopian forces abducted Mr Tsege at an airport 16 months ago and rendered him to Ethiopia, where he has been held ever since. Mr Tsege was held in solitary confinement at an unknown location for over a year, before being recently transferred to a prison that has been referred to as ‘Ethiopia’s gulag’. Mr Tsege, whose British partner and three children live in London, is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian government, and has received an in absentia death sentence.

Since his kidnap, Mr Tsege has been refused access to a lawyer or his family, and has not been charged with any crime or subjected to any form of legal process. He is permitted only rare, closely monitored visits by the British Ambassador, who opened today’s trade event.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has condemned Mr Tsege’s ordeal and ordered Ethiopia to release him, but the UK Government has so far limited itself to requesting proper consular access and ‘due process’ in his case. Mr Shapps has told human rights organization Reprieve that the government “take[s] every opportunity” to raise his case.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, said:

“Grant Shapps’ promise to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Ethiopia will be cold comfort to Andy Tsege’s desperate family in London. Even the UK’s limited requests for proper consular access have been flatly ignored by our allies in Ethiopia. Andy is a British father who is the victim of a series of terrible abuses by the Ethiopian government – from kidnap to torture to an in absentia death sentence. The UN itself has demanded Andy’s return to the UK, as have thousands of members of the British public. The government must do the same, and call for Andy’s immediate release – today seems to have been a missed opportunity to do so.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization with offices in London and New York City. For more information, contact Reprieve’s press office (UK): alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140 and (US) katherine.oshea@reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064

2. Mr Shapps’ comment was reported by the Foreign Office on Twitter, here.

3. Details of the public call made to Mr Shapps can be seen here.

4. Details on Kality prison (‘Ethiopia’s gulag’) can be found here.