For Immediate Release
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Foreign Office Loses Contact with British Dad ‘in Fear for His Life’ on Ethiopian Death Row
Britain’s Foreign Office has failed for a fortnight to confirm if a British father held on death row in Ethiopia is still alive, after a warning that his life may be in danger.
UK diplomats in Ethiopia learned on Friday 27 October that British father-of-three, Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, was ‘in fear for his life’ following disturbances at the prison.
Mr Tsege has been imprisoned unlawfully in Ethiopia since 2014, when he was kidnapped at an international airport and rendered to the country. His death sentence was illegally imposed in absentia in 2009 for his criticism of Ethiopia’s ruling party while he was in London with his family.
Concerns for Mr Tsege’s wellbeing have escalated over the last fortnight, in which the Foreign Office has failed to secure consular access to the prison or speak to Andy directly, leaving his London family fearing for the worst.
For the first year of this captivity, Mr Tsege was held incommunicado. British diplomats were later allowed to visit him and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed that “regular consular access” was “now in place.” However, Andy has not been allowed a consular visit in over three months.
The UK government has refused to call for his release, and cited consular access as a sign that his situation had improved.
The two-week news blackout from the jail has seriously undermined the Foreign Office’s claim that it has his case under control.
The FCO has focused on requesting legal access for Mr Tsege – a request which the Ethiopian Prime Minister promised to honour in June this year, but has since reneged upon.
International human rights organisation Reprieve – which is assisting Mr Tsege – has argued that requesting legal access is ineffectual, because the Ethiopian Government has already stated that there is no legal route by which Mr Tsege will be allowed to challenge his death sentence.
Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said:
“Andy’s partner and kids in London are completely in the dark about what has happened to him, and they are fearing for the worst. It’s shocking that Andy could be in mortal danger, and yet British officials seem unable or unwilling to check that he is alive and well. Andy has already suffered a catalogue of abuses – from an unlawful in absentia death sentence, to kidnap, rendition, torture, and over two years’ illegal detention. Andy is now in fear for his life – what more will it take for the British government to stop cowtowing to the Ethiopians, stand up for the rights of this innocent British father of three, and secure his return home to his family in London?”
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.