Ethiopia: UK Foreign Secretary fails to request kidnapped Briton’s release

By Ekklesia

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says he used a visit to Ethiopia yesterday (1 June 2016) to secure ‘legal access’ for a British man who was kidnapped and rendered to the country in 2014, and who is now held under sentence of death.

In a statement following meetings with the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Hammond said that he had “raised the case” of Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London. Mr Hammond said he had “received a commitment from the Prime Minister that Mr Tsege will be allowed access to independent legal advice to allow him to discuss options under the Ethiopian legal system”, and that, following a consular visit from a senior Foreign Office official, he was “satisfied that he is not being ill-treated.”

Mr Hammond had faced calls to use today’s visit to request Mr Tsege’s release, including from the international human rights group Reprieve, which is assisting his family in the UK.

Tsege was kidnapped in June 2014 as he transited through an airport, and rendered to Ethiopia. In diplomatic documents from 2014, obtained by Reprieve, British officials described Mr Tsege’s rendition as “completely unacceptable.” However, the UK government has so far refused to request his release.(

Andargachew Tsege – a prominent figure in Ethiopian opposition politics – is held under a sentence of death that was handed down whilst he was living in London in 2009. US diplomats have described the trial as a form of “political retaliation”, which “lacked basic elements of due process”, while British officials have said privately that they “have not been shown any evidence [against Mr Tsege] that would stand up in a UK court.”

Torture is common in Ethiopia, and there are concerns for Tsege’s wellbeing in detention. In 2015, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture said that Ethiopian officials may have had violated the Convention Against Torture in their treatment of him.

Separately, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the European Parliament have called for Mr Tsege’s release.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “The Foreign Secretary appears to have missed a crucial opportunity today to end the appalling ordeal of British father, Andy Tsege. Instead, he has chosen to parrot the Ethiopian government’s propaganda, in a move that will do nothing to help Andy. Philip Hammond has said that Andy will have ‘legal access’ – but this is meaningless rhetoric, as he must himself well know.

“Andy has been subjected to a series of unlawful acts – from an in absentia death sentence to kidnap, rendition, and continued detention without charge. Mr Hammond should not be compounding these abuses by repeating the Ethiopian government fiction that Andy’s treatment is in any way lawful – instead, he must demand Andy’s urgent return home to his family in Britain.”

* Reprieve