Kidnapped British father spends 600th day in illegal detention

A British father of three who was kidnapped to Ethiopia in 2014 will today spend his 600th day in detention.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, from London, has been detained by Ethiopian forces since 23rd June 2014, when he was seized at an airport in Yemen and forcibly taken to Ethiopia. He is held under a sentence of death handed down in absentia in 2009, in relation to his activities with an Ethiopian opposition group. The Ethiopian authorities have refused to allow Mr Tsege to see or talk to his British family, and have denied his requests to see a lawyer.

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International human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Tsege, has asked the British government to request his release formally, but the Foreign Office has so far declined to do so. UK officials have instead made a series of requests for regular consular access to Mr Tsege, and for due process for him in Ethiopia’s courts. These requests have been rebuffed by the Ethiopian government. It has recently emerged that Mr Tsege is not being held as a regular prisoner, and is not recorded in the country’s prison system.

Torture is common in Ethiopian prisons, and there are fears for Mr Tsege’s wellbeing. The Ethiopian government has released a series of videos and photos of Mr Tsege in detention, in which he appears gaunt and tired; in a recent assessment, a British psychiatric expert – Dr Ben Robinson – concluded that “Mr. Tsege’s mental state has undergone a sharp and marked decline in detention.”

Last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Ethiopia to release Mr Tsege without delay.

“It is deeply worrying that Andy Tsege – a Brit with a young family who are desperately worried about him – is enduring his 600th day in detention with no end in sight. Andy is the victim of a series of outrageous breaches of international law by Ethiopia’s government – from an in absentia death sentence to kidnapping, rendition and utterly arbitrary detention. Whatever the UK has been doing to date is clearly not having an effect; the government must change its approach, and call firmly for Andy’s release.”
Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve