Friday, March 17, 2017 – 1:15pm
The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has said that on his first trip to Ethiopia, he has received assurances that a British man who is illegally held on death row has been permitted to see a lawyer.
Mr Johnson said today that he had received undertakings that Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, who is held illegally under sentence of death in Ethiopia, would have “regular access to a lawyer” in Ethiopia.
The announcement comes nine months after a similar promise of legal access was made by Ethiopia to Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Philip Hammond.
Mr Tsege was kidnapped from an international airport by Ethiopian forces in 2014, and rendered to Ethiopia. He has been held there unlawfully for nearly 1,000 days, and is currently held at a prison that has been described as ‘Ethiopia’s gulag.’
Mr Tsege – who is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian ruling party – was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009, in a trial that the US State Department said was “lacking basic elements of due process.”
The Foreign Secretary appears today to have refused calls to seek Mr Tsege’s return, which have come from MPs, British legal experts and others such as legal charity Reprieve.
In a recent letter to the Foreign Office, former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve, Labour Lord (Charlie) Falconer and Lib Dem peer Ken MacDonald argued that Mr Tsege’s kidnap and rendition are grounds for a UK request for his return to Britain.
Their letter pointed out that the Ethiopian Government has said that Mr Tsege has no prospect of appealing his death sentence. The legal experts asked the Foreign Secretary to “call for Mr Tsege’s immediate release to his family in London.”
Commenting, Maya Foa – a director at Reprieve – said: “Boris Johnson appears to have missed a vital opportunity to press for the return of a British dad who has been subjected to a shocking litany of abuses over the past 1,000 days. It’s clear that there can be no just process for Andy Tsege in Ethiopia, where he is held under an illegal death sentence. Boris Johnson must urgently listen to his own MPs and to Andy’s family – he must secure the return of this British citizen without delay.”
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.