Amnesty Int’l says missing British Man at risk of torture
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
On 8 July, state-run Ethiopian Television (ETV) – the country’s only TV channel – confirmed that Andargachew Tsige was was being detained in Addis Ababa, but his precise whereabouts in the Ethiopian capital have still not been disclosed.
The ETV broadcast showed footage of Mr Tsige saying his arrest was a blessing in disguise and he just wanted to rest. His wife told us that she did not understand what the footage or the message was intended to mean.
This is not the first time ETV has broadcast footage of defendants in terrorism trials. In a number of cases, it has violated the individuals’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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 see
Call 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.
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