UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has refused to ask the Ethiopian government to release a kidnapped Brit who is on death row and may be being tortured in detention, a human rights organization says.
Political activist Andargachew “Andy” Tsege disappeared while catching a connecting flight through Yemen in 2014 and was forcibly taken to Ethiopia.
Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement under a death sentence imposed in absentia in 2009, having had little contact with his family.
Hammond, who visited Ethiopia this week, says he used his trip to “raise the case” and secure “legal access” for the father of three from London.
“[I] 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,” Hammond said.
He added he was “satisfied that [Tsege] is not being ill-treated” following a consular visit from a senior Foreign Office official.
But the human rights organisation Reprieve says Hammond needs to do more for the 60-year-old by urging the Ethiopian government to free Tsege and allow him to return home to Britain.
“The foreign secretary appears to have missed a crucial opportunity today to end the appalling ordeal of a 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,” said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve.
“Philip Hammond has said 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.”
Reprieve says torture is common in Ethiopia and is concerned for Tsege’s wellbeing. In 2015 the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture said Ethiopian officials may have violated the Convention Against Torture in their treatment of him.
The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the European Parliament have also called for Tsege’s release.
Last week, Tsege’s daughter, Menabe Andargachew, 9, launched legal action against the British government in a bid to bring her father home.
She says the foreign secretary has failed to help secure her father’s release from prison.
Britain is the second-largest donor to Ethiopia, giving it £350 million (US$505 million) a year. Hammond warned last year the case could jeopardize relations between the two countries, the Telegraph reports.
Tsege was a secretary-general of a political group, Ginbot 7, which is opposed to the current Ethiopian administration. He was granted asylum in Britain on political grounds in 1983 and became a citizen in 2006.