Tag Archives: ETHIOPIA

UN demands release of British activist jailed in Ethiopia amid torture fears

The Foreign Office has pushed for consular access to Andargachew Tsige with no tangible results, since the British citizen was abducted in Ethiopia a year ago

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The UN has demanded the immediate release of a Briton held on death row in Ethiopia for more than a year, an intervention that campaigners say exposes Britain’s poor diplomacy towards the case.

Experts from the UN Human Rights Council have advised Ethiopia to pay Andargachew Tsige “adequate compensation” before sending him home to London, an abrupt hardening of its position on the case at a time when Britain pursues a softly, softly approach with no tangible reward.

Internal Foreign Office emails, disclosed for the first time, reveal that even before Tsige was kidnapped and jailed in an unknown location in June 2014, British officials had voiced fears at “the real risk of torture if [Tsige is] returned to Ethiopia”, along with “fair trial concerns”.

An eight-page judgment from the UNHRC’s working group on arbitrary detention handed to Ethiopia suggests such fears have been realised, saying that there is “reliable evidence on a possible situation of physical abuse and mistreatment which could amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Tsige, 60, a father of three from London, and known to friends as Andy, was arrested in Yemen’s main airport while in transit and forcibly removed to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

He is prominent in Ethiopian politics, having been leader of opposition party Ginbot 7, which has called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. The government has accused him of being a terrorist and in 2009 he was tried in his absence and sentenced to death.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond has refused to demand his urgent release, preferring to push for consular access, a request rejected by Ethiopia. Tsige’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their children, has spoken to him just once by telephone since his abduction.

Another internal government email from the UK ambassador to Ethiopia to Laurence Robertson MP, who heads the all-party parliamentary group on Ethiopia, describes the Ethiopians as “obdurate”.

Hammond recently attempted to harden up the UK’s position on Tsige, calling for rapid progress in the case, but campaigners say this remains significantly short of what is required. Another recent Foreign Office statement made no mention of Tsige, but welcomed the “generally peaceful environment” of the recent Ethiopian elections, which saw the government locking up political opponents and journalists.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, said: “Despite the injustices that have been – and continue to be – committed against this British national, the foreign secretary refuses to ask for Andy’s release and his return back home to his family in Britain.

“The UN is right to be taking action and demanding Andy’s immediate release from his unlawful detention. The UK’s refusal to do the same is an unacceptable abdication of responsibility to one of its citizens.”

Kevin Laue of the human rights organisation Redress, which helps torture survivors, said: “The UK government should be outraged by this behaviour and should be responding in the strongest possible terms.” A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The foreign secretary has raised this case with the Ethiopian foreign minister on 13 separate occasions, most recently on 29 April 2015. The minister for Africa raised this again on 11 June. We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsige being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/05/un-demands-release-british-activist-death-row-ethiopia

UK Foreign secretary warns Ethiopia over treatment of Andargachew Tsige

By Owen Bowcott | The Guardian

Foreign secretary condemns detention of Andargachew Tsige in solitary confinement with no access to consular help or right to appeal

The treatment of a Briton on death row in Ethiopia is threatening to undermine the country’s relationship with the UK, the foreign secretary has warned.

In an unusually blunt statement, Philip Hammond has called for rapid progress in the case of Andargachew Tsige, who is being held in solitary confinement in an unknown location in Ethiopia.

The foreign secretary’s comments, released a year after Tsige was abducted while transiting through Yemen, is a clear sign of official disapproval of the approach taken by the regime in Addis Abbaba. The Foreign Office is escalating the case beyond confidential diplomatic exchanges.

On Wednesday, Hammond spoke to the Ethiopian foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, about the case on the phone. His statement said: “I am deeply concerned that, a year after he was first detained, British national Andargachew Tsige remains in solitary confinement in Ethiopia without a legal process to challenge his detention.

“I am also concerned for his welfare and disappointed that our repeated requests for regular consular access have not been granted, despite promises made.

“I spoke to foreign minister Tedros and made clear that Ethiopia’s failure to grant our repeated and basic requests is not acceptable. I informed Dr Tedros that the lack of progress risks undermining the UK’s much valued bilateral relationship with Ethiopia.

“I asked Dr Tedros once again to permit immediate regular consular access and for our concerns regarding Mr Tsige’s welfare to be addressed. I have also asked that the Ethiopian authorities facilitate a visit by Mr Tsige’s family. Foreign Office officials will continue to provide consular support both to Mr Tsige and to his family during this difficult time.”

Tsige’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, lives in London with their three children. She has spoken to him only once by phone since his abduction.

“He’s in prison but we have no idea where he is being held,” she told the Guardian last month. “He said he was okay, but I’m sure the call was being listened to. He had been in Dubai and was flying on to Eritrea when the plane stopped over in Yemen. He hadn’t even been through immigration. We think Yemeni security took him and handed him over to the Ethiopians.

“They say there was an extradition agreement, but it was so quick there was no time for any semblance of a legal hearing. Yemen and Ethiopia had close relations then. The [Ethiopian] government have put him on television three times in heavily edited interviews, saying he was revealing secrets.

“He has been kept under artificial light 24 hours a day and no one [other than the UK ambassador] has had access to him.”

Tsige, 60 – known as Andy – had previously been secretary general of Ginbot 7, a political opposition party that called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. He first came to the UK in 1979.

The Ethiopian government has accused him of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death. The latest reports suggest that his health is deteriorating.

His lawyer, Ben Cooper, of Doughty Street Chambers, said: “We welcome the Foreign Secretary condemning the illegality of Andy Tsige’s detention, confirming the fact of his solitary confinement and demanding consular visits. But we have a simple ask: please request Andy Tsige’s return home to his family in London. Mr Tsige was kidnapped by Ethiopia at an international airport and the only remedy for kidnap is release. Why has Mr Hammond not yet asked Ethiopia to release Andy so he can return home to England?”

Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has written to the Ethiopian and UK governments saying he is investigating Tsige’s treatment.

Who is Andargachew Tsige?

Andargachew, or Andy, Tsige fled Addis Abbaba in the 1970s following threats against his life from the military regime, the Derg, which then controlled Ethiopia.

A student activist, he had attracted the attention of the authorities. His younger brother was killed by the security forces. Tsige escaped into the mountains to join opposition groups.

In 1979, after falling out with fellow rebels, he sought asylum in the UK. He studied at the University of Greenwich and obtained full UK citizenship.

Tsige returned to Ethiopia after the Derg was overthrown but moved back to the UK in the early 1990s where he became active in opposition politics.

In 2005, he returned to Addis Abbaba again. He took part in that year’s election and was briefly imprisoned. after being freed, he founded a new political movement, Ginbot 7, from his exile in London.

The organisation was alleged by the Ethiopian government to have launched a failed coup in 2009. Tsige was condemned to death in his absence.

In June 2014, he had flown to the Gulf to give lectures. An unexpected change to his return route saw him fly back via Yemen where he changed planes. At Sana’a airport, he was arrested by guards and put on a plane to Ethiopia on the grounds that there was an extradition agreement between the two countries.

Supporters say that had he been born white and in the UK, the Foreign Office would have taken a more forceful line in campaigning for his release from death row in east Africa.

His partner, Yemisrach Hailemariam, and their three children live in London. She has campaigned actively for his freedom.

In February a delegation of MPs, led by Jeremy Corbyn, his local member, was scheduled to visit Ethiopia in an attempt to secure his release. The trip was abandoned following a meeting with the Ethiopian ambassador.

Ethiopia-British leader on death row ‘might’ escape execution: government

By AFP

An Ethiopian opposition leader with British citizenship on death row will not be pardoned but might escape execution, the government said Thursday, after reports he was struggling in solitary confinement.
Andargachew Tsege, 60, the leader of the outlawed Ginbot 7 group and who was granted political asylum in Britain, was convicted in absentia in 2009 for terrorism, and was imprisoned a year ago after being controversially extradited from Yemen.

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“Death sentences are very rarely carried out by the court in Ethiopia. His sentence might be commuted to life imprisonment, but he won’t be pardoned, he won’t be released,” government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told AFP.
“He is an incorrigible criminal and a recidivist who tried to overthrow the Ethiopian government, plant bombs and who organized unrest after the 2005 elections.”
Ethiopia accuses him of also training opposition groups in neighbouring long-term foe Eritrea.
Andargachew, known as Andy, was arrested on June 2014 in Yemen’s Sanaa airport en route to Eritrea, and controversially extradited to Addis Ababa, an action criticised by Britain for being in defiance of international law.
Britain is one of Ethiopia’s largest donors, with development aid totalling some 303 million pounds (482 million dollars, 422 million euros) for the period 2015-2016.
The British ambassador to Ethiopia last saw him on April 24, the third visit permitted to diplomats since his imprisonment.
A report this week by London’s The Independent newspaper quoted a Foreign Office report of the meeting, in which it said Andargachew is being held in solitary confinement.
“Andargachew looks physically in reasonable shape but has health concerns. And he appears in a bad place psychologically. No evidence of mistreatment, other than the solitary nature of his confinement,” the report read, according to The Independent.
The report left his wife, who is looking after their three children, at “breaking point”, the newspaper added.
London has requested he be moved to a normal jail.
“The Foreign Secretary is extremely concerned about Andargachew Tsege’s continued detention. That is why he has raised his case with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister on 13 separate occasions,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
“We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsege being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”
Rights groups have criticised Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, accusing the government of using it to silence dissent and curb freedom of expression.
The Ginbot 7 group is considered a terrorist organisation under Ethiopian law. Its name commemorates the Ethiopian calendar date — May 15 in the Gregorian calendar — when post-election violence in 2005 left over 200 people dead.

UN investigates Briton on death row in Ethiopia

Special rapporteur on torture asks UK and Ethiopian governments about detention of Andargachew Tsige amid claims of ill-treatment

Yemi Hailemariam outside the Foreign Commonwealth Office
Yemi Hailemariam outside the Foreign Commonwealth Office to demand the release of her partner, Andargachew Tsege, who is being held in in Ethiopia. Photograph: Alamy

The detention of a British citizen held on death row in Ethiopia for almost a year is being investigated by the United Nations official responsible for preventing torture.

Andargachew Tsige was arrested last June while in transit through Yemen’s main airport and forcibly removed to Addis Ababa. He is the leader of an opposition party and had been condemned to death several years earlier in his absence.

Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has written to the Ethiopian and UK governments saying he is investigating the treatment of Tsige. There are claims Tsige is being deprived of sleep and held in isolation.

His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their three children, said she had only spoken to him once by telephone since his abduction. “He’s in prison but we have no idea where he is being held,” she said. “He said he was OK but I’m sure the call was being listened to.

“He had been in Dubai and was flying on to Eritrea when the plane stopped over in Yemen. He hadn’t even been through immigration. We think Yemeni security took him and handed him over to the Ethiopians.

“They say there was an extradition agreement but it was so quick there was no time for any semblance of a legal hearing. Yemen and Ethiopia had close relations then. The [Ethiopian] government have put him on television three times in heavily edited interviews, saying he was revealing secrets

“He has been kept under artificial light 24 hours a day and no one [other than the UK ambassador] has had access to him. I feel angry with the Foreign Office. They know they could do more. They have political leverage they could use but have not done so.”

Tsige, 60, known as Andy, had previously been secretary general of Ginbot 7, a political opposition party that called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. He first came to the UK in 1979. The Ethiopian government has accused him of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death.

No effort was made to extradite him to face the court. A US embassy cable, released through WikiLeaks, described the trial as “lacking in basic elements of due process”.

“[Andy] is a politician, not a terrorist,” said Hailemariam. “It’s just the Ethiopian government that thinks it does not need to make any space for the opposition. A delegation of British MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, were stopped from travelling to Ethiopia in February. They are hoping to try again.”

Tsige was accused by the Ethiopian government of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried in his absence and sentenced to death.

Tsige was accused by the Ethiopian government of being a terrorist. He was tried in his absence in 2009 and sentenced to death. Photograph: Alamy

Hailemariam’s dissatisfaction with the UK government’s response follows the release of internal Foreign Office memorandums earlier this year that appeared to show official reluctance to apply pressure on Ethiopia to obtain Tsige’s release.

The UK prime minister, David Cameron, has, however, written a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart, Hailemariam Desalegn, raising concerns about Tsige.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The foreign secretary has raised this case with the Ethiopian foreign minister on 13 separate occasions. We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsige being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team said: “Andy Tsige was illegally kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has now been held in a secret location for nearly a year. The UN special rapporteur is right to raise concerns about torture – especially given Ethiopia’s terrible record on human rights, and their denial of any meaningful consular access.

“It is crucial that the British government now takes stronger action on this case. The way Andy has been treated is in serious violation of international law and the most basic principles of justice – the UK must push for his immediate release.”

Tsige’s lawyer, the barrister Ben Cooper of Doughty Street chambers, said: “[He] was abducted at an international airport, hooded and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has been held incommunicado under a death sentence that was passed unlawfully in his absence. He remains in isolation nearly a year later with only occasional access to the open air.

“His detention violates all minimum standards of treatment. We ask the Foreign Office to follow the lead of the UN special rapporteur on torture to demand an immediate end to Mr Tsege’s torture by seeking his return home to his family in England. This is a clear case of kidnap and should be treated as such.”

Elections are taking place in Ethiopia this weekend. Tsige’s family hopes the government will relax restrictions on the opposition once voting is over.

In a lengthy statement, the Ethiopian embassy said that Ginbot 7 had been proscribed a terrorist organisation by the country’s parliament. Tsige, as general secretary, it added, was charged with “conspiring to perpetrate terror and violence in Ethiopia by planning, training, financing, and organising terrorist recruits in Eritrea” and found guilty of “conspiring and working with and under Ginbot 7, to overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia through terrorist acts”.

Following conviction and sentence, the embassy continued, the government sent a formal request of assistance to those states with which Ethiopia has an extradition treaty, requesting them to transfer all sentenced individuals in the event of their presence on their territory.

“It was on the basis of this request, and the existing extradition treaty with the Republic of Yemen, that [he] was extradited to Ethiopia. Accordingly, [he] is currently in detention at the federal prison,” it said.

The statement added: “Mr Tsige was serving as a Trojan horse, assisting the Eritrean government’s repeated and ongoing attempts to wreak havoc and instability in the sub-region. Mr Tsige is well-treated and has received visits from the British ambassador to Ethiopia. He has also spoken to his family on the phone.”

California Congressman demands the release of Andargachew Tsige

House.gov

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WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Monday urged Ethiopia’s prime minister to release Andargachew Tsige, a native-born opposition leader with British citizenship who last month was extradited to the African nation from Yemen under questionable circumstances.

In a letter to Prime Minister Hailemarian Desalegn, the California Republican wrote: “Mr. Andargachew is a British citizen and a leader for political reform in Ethiopia. He should be released and allowed to return to his family immediately. Any maltreatment or harm to him, or other prodemocracy activists, in your country only serves to widen the gap between our two countries.”

Andargachew was traveling from Dubai to Eritrea on June 23 when, stopping over in Yemen, he was forcibly flown back to Ethiopia, which he fled in 2005 following protests of the nation’s elections. He was granted asylum in Britain, where his wife currently lives. British officials have expressed concerns that his extradition was not properly handled.

The activist was charged with terrorism and sentenced to death in absentia. In his letter to the Ethiopian prime minister, Rohrabacher added concerns from the United States.

His letter can be accessed here: >> http://rohrabacher.house.gov/media-cent … n-leader-0

Andargachew Tsige : AT RISK OF TORTURE

Amnesty International UK

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Prisoners freed. Torture stopped. Executions prevented. We know that actions like yours have a real impact.

If you are able, please donate to help us continue campaigning for individuals at risk.

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