(Ekklesia)— A British man who is held under sentence of death in Ethiopia has spent his 700th day in unlawful detention, after he was kidnapped and rendered to the country by Ethiopian forces in 2014.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London, disappeared in June 2014 while in transit at an airport in Yemen. Weeks later, Ethiopian officials admitted to the UK Foreign Office that they had illegally ‘rendered’ him to a secret prison in Ethiopia. Mr Tsege is a prominent member of an Ethiopian opposition group, and he is held under a sentence of death imposed in absentia in 2009.
The Ethiopian government has released videos of Mr Tsege in detention – in which he appears gaunt and disoriented – but has allowed only limited access to him by British officials, in a series of intermittent, monitored meetings. Torture is common in Ethiopian prisons, and there are serious concerns for Mr Tsege’s wellbeing in detention.
The British government has said that it takes Mr Tsege’s case “seriously”, and that it “risks undermining the UK’s much valued bilateral relationship with Ethiopia.” In internal Foreign Office documents obtained by human rights organisation Reprieve in 2014, UK officials also said they “have not been shown any evidence” against him.
However, the UK government has refused to request that Ethiopia release Mr Tsege. In a parliamentary answer in April, Foreign Office minister James Duddridge told MPs that “Our focus has been on lobbying for Mr Tsege to have access to a lawyer and a legal route through which he can challenge his detention.” (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22920)
The UN’s Human Rights Council, as well as the European Parliament, have both called for Mr Tsege to be released.
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “It is shameful that Andy Tsege is spending his 700th day in unlawful detention, under sentence of death, and the British government still refuses to call for his release. The UN and others have made clear that Andy must be released – while his young kids desperately need their father home in London. Enough is enough – ministers must urgently call on Ethiopia to free Andy.”