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.”