by Katherine Oshea
A British father of three who was kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia will this week enter his third year of illegal detention in the country, where he is held under sentence of death.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, from London, was kidnapped by Ethiopian forces on the 23rdof June 2014 as he transited through an airport in Yemen. He was forcibly taken to Ethiopia, and has been held in the country ever since. Mr Tsege is a prominent figure in Ethiopian opposition politics, and he has previously spoken out about human rights abuses in Ethiopia, including at the US Congress and European Parliament. He is held under a sentence of death that was imposed in absentia in 2009, whilst he was living in London.
Throughout the first two years of his detention, the Ethiopian authorities have limited Mr Tsege’s access to his family and UK consular officials. Last week, UK Foreign Office documents relating to the case were made public, showing how throughout 2015, Ethiopian officials repeatedly refused to answer British requests on Mr Tsege’s case. In a record of one conversation between Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond MP and his Ethiopian counterpart, Dr Tedros Adanhom, one year after Mr Tsege’s kidnap, Mr Hammond complained about Ethiopia’s “repeated failure to deliver on our basic requests”, saying “people were asking why we had a substantial bilateral relationship but were not able to resolve this”.
The documents also show that Ethiopian officials have repeatedly told UK diplomats that there is no possibility of a legal process for Mr Tsege in Ethiopia – raising serious doubts over an announcement by Mr Hammond, made earlier this month, that Ethiopia’s government had promised ‘legal access’ for Mr Tsege.
Reprieve has urged the Foreign Office to request Mr Tsege’s release, and his return to the UK – a call that has already been made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the European Parliament, and several MPs.
Torture of political prisoners is common in Ethiopia, and there are fears for Mr Tsege's mental and physical wellbeing.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at human rights organization Reprieve – which is assisting Mr Tsege's family –said: “It is heart-breaking that Andy Tsege, and his young family in London, are today forced to mark the third year of his illegal detention in Ethiopia. If the last two years have shown anything in his case, it’s that there is no chance of justice for Andy while the Ethiopian government has him in their clutches. Enough is enough – the Foreign Secretary must demand Andy’s immediate return to the UK.”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.