London’s Ethiopian community’s solidarity with detained opposition leader

By Martin Plaut 

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Members of the Ethiopian community living in London turned out to show their support for the jailed secretary-general of Ginbot 7, Andargachew Tsige. Today (Tuesday) the British government put out a statement saying that Mr Andargachew was being held in Addis Ababa after being extradited from Yemen.

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These images show the demonstration calling for his release, outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has issued this statement.

Amnesty International UK
PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TUESDAY 8 JULY 2014

GOVERNMENT WARNED ‘THE CLOCK IS TICKING’ FOR BRITISH MAN AT RISK OF TORTURE IN ETHIOPIA

Amnesty International has called on the UK Government to ensure the safety of British man who is at risk of torture after being forcibly returned to Ethiopia.
Andargachew Tsige, a British national of Ethiopian origin and Secretary General of the outlawed Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7, disappeared at Sana’a airport in Yemen on 24 June while he was en route to Eritrea.

He had previously been tried in absentia in Ethiopia and sentenced to death for involvement in an alleged coup attempt.

For the following week there were no official statements released by either the Yemeni or Ethiopian authorities about Mr Tsige’s whereabouts. However, human rights activists in Yemen told Amnesty that he was forcibly returned to Ethiopia the same day he landed, after being detained at Sana’a airport, in violation of international law. Today a Foreign Office Spokesperson confirmed that Mr Tsige is in Ethiopia, though his specific location remains unknown.

Amnesty is concerned that Mr Tsige is at acute risk of torture, given that political detainees in Ethiopia are frequently tortured in order to extract information and confessions. Mr Tsige is being detained ‘incommunicado’ – in an unknown location with no access to legal or consular representatives or family members – which severely exacerbates this risk.

Amnesty is urgently appealing to the UK Government to ensure that all possible efforts are made to immediately identify the whereabouts of Mr Tsige and to gain consular access to him.

Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said: “Swift action to locate and ensure the safety of Andargachew Tsige must be a top priority for the UK Government.”

“Given that Mr Tsige is a political activist who has been tried and sentenced to death in his absence, and given the regularity with which political opponents are tortured, there is a real danger that Mr Tsige’s life could be at risk.

“The longer he remains incommunicado, the more precarious his situation. The clock is ticking.

“The Ethiopian authorities must immediately reveal Mr Tsige’s whereabouts, and ensure he has access to British consulate staff, lawyers and relatives.

“In addition to insisting on assurances that the death penalty will not be carried out, the UK Government should also seek immediate guarantees that Mr Tsige will not be subject to torture.”

In 2009, Mr Tsige was tried in absentia in Ethiopia and sentenced to death for involvement in an alleged coup attempt. In 2011 Ethiopia’s Parliament banned Ginbot 7, deeming it a terrorist organisation.

Following this, in 2012, the authorities again prosecuted Mr Tsige in absentia on terrorism charges, alongside a number of opposition members, journalists and others. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Amnesty believes he is at serious risk of being imprisoned based on a conviction for charges against which he was not able to present a defence.

Yemen’s transfer of Mr Tsige to Ethiopia is in violation of international law. Under the international Convention against Torture, to which Yemen is a party, a state may not “expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

Andargachew Tsige : AT RISK OF TORTURE

Amnesty International UK

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On 24 June 2014 Andargachew Tsige, an Ethiopian political activist, disappeared at Sana’a airport in Yemen while travelling between the United Arab Emirates and Eritrea.

No official statements have been made by the Yemeni or Ethiopian authorities about Andargachew Tsige’s whereabouts, but human rights activists in Yemen told Amnesty he was seized and taken to Ethiopia the day he landed.

Without confirmation of his location, Andargachew is at acute risk of torture.

The clock is ticking

Andargachew Tsige, a British national of Ethiopian origin, is Secretary-General of Ginbot 7 – an outlawed opposition group, deemed a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian parliament.

In 2009, he was tried in absentia in Ethiopia and sentenced to death for an alleged coup attempt. He was prosecuted in absentia again in 2012 on terrorism charges, alongside other prisoners of conscience, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

We believe he is in serious danger of being imprisoned and ill-treated based on convictions he was unable to present a defence for.

‘Given that Mr Tsige is a political activist who has been tried and sentenced to death in his absence, and given the regularity with which political opponents are tortured, there is a real danger that Mr Tsige’s life could be at risk. The longer he remains incommunicado, the more precarious his situation. The clock is ticking.’
Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth

Silencing the opposition

Ethiopian authorities often use charges of terrorism to silence political dissent. In recent years, many activists have been kidnapped in neighbouring countries and imprisoned in Ethiopia, with the help of security forces in those countries.

Once detained, they are denied access to lawyers and family members. Political prisoners are often held in unofficial locations, where they are frequently tortured in order to extract information and confessions.

Yemen’s transfer of Andargachew Tsige to Ethiopia violates international law as no state should extradite a person to another state where they would be in danger of torture.

What we want to seeCall on the Ethiopian authorities now to guarantee Andargachew Tsige is not tortured or ill-treated.

We’re also asking the Ethiopian authorities to:

Immediately confirm where he is being held and that he has full access to legal and consular representation and family members.Ensure he is not required to serve any sentence for a conviction in absentia and any charges against him are heard in a trial meeting international standards, without the possibility of a death sentence.

Send a letter or text message

You can text FIND1 and your full name [first name, last name] to 70505 to add your name to our petition*. Over 14s only please.

If you would prefer to write your own letter, please send appeals for Andargachew Tsige’s safety before 8 August 2014 to:

Minister of Justice Getachew Ambaye 
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 1370
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 5517755

His Excellency Mr Berhanu Kebede

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

17 Princes Gate

London

SW7 1PZ

Fax: 020 7584 7054

Email: ambassador@ethioembassy.org.uk,info@ethioembassy.org.uk

 

ETV’s latest guest Andargachew Tsige

By Hindessa Abdul 

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Andargachew Tsege Secretary general of the outlawed Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7, Andargachew Tsige, was detained in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on June 24; and if we have to believe the official version, he was extradited to the security officials in Addis the same day.

Yemen, which never misses the top ten spot on the annual failed states index, seemed unable to contain the pressure of holding an opposition leader of a foreign country. They quickly dumped him over to his nemesis who already handed him a couple of death sentences. Worrying about international conventions and treaties is a luxury the Arabian Peninsula nation can hardly afford.

Two weeks after the arrest, Ethiopian officials were confident enough to put Andargachew on national television to prove they got their sworn enemy. One that triggered the government’s disclosure is probably to preempt whatever may come from London, a day earlier British official met the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. While the topic of the discussion was not mentioned, it is clear that Ms Lynne Featherstone didn’t travel 5,000 km to tell Hailemariam “the support of her government would further be consolidated in the future.” Andargachew, who is a naturalized British citizen, might as well be high on the agenda.

ETV showed some images of Andargachew in military fatigue and in villages, the location of which is yet to be disclosed. But a carefully edited grainy video which is more likely taped by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) shows him saying:

“I am at ease with myself. For me It is a blessing in disguise. I am in no rush. I just want to rest.I am really really exhausted. I have no resentment, no anger and no despair.I am totally in control and stable.”

Those words barely convey any messages. We don’t know if they are given under duress. Or if the investigators want to cajole the opposition figure into getting him to give more information, if there is anything left by now. We see him shaking hands with his interviewer whose face is unseen, may be an attempt to show he is in good hands.

That puts to rest the weeklong speculation of the media and in some cases top ranking government officials. “I have no idea,” Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse. The government spokesperson Getachew Reda, who is closer to the inner circle of the leadership, was generally dodging the question by retorting to rhetorics.

So last night’s statement sets the government information officials free, at least not to deny what is the obvious. Your move Shimeles Kemal!