EU Human Rights Committee holds hearing on Andargachew Tsege’s Illegal Detention
EU Human Rights Committee held a hearing on 24th September 2014 about Andargachew Tsege a UK citizen’s illegal rendition from Yemen and subsequent detention at unknown location in Ethiopia. The committee also discussed the unjust detention of the Zone 9 bloggers.
Chairperson Elena VALENCIANO MARTÍNEZ-OROZCO began the hearing by telling the committee since the committee’s visit in July 2013, they have been very concerned about the events in Ethiopia including “to all appearances the strange detention of Mr Andargachew Tsege”.
The first speaker was Maya Foa of Reprieve who has been working on Andargachew Tsege’s case since his illegal detention. She stated his arrest was in “flagrant violation of international law”. Ms Foa told the hearing the trial in 2009 in which he was sentenced to death did not follow due process as Andargacchew did not get a chance to defend himself. She ended by saying “we ask all effort be made to have him released and back to freedom and his family in the UK”. MEP Mr. Richard Howitt commented as a fellow British National he was happy to see the UK government was taking interest in the case and that they were asking for Andargachew’s immediate release. Ms Foa then clarified that the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office’s position to date has been to ask for consular access rather than immediate release. The parliamentarian after thanking Ms Foa for the clarification then asked the Chairperson for the committee to send a letter to both the UK FCO and the Ethiopian authorities demanding for the immediate release of Andargachew Tsege.
Ms Emma Achilli of Front line Defenders spoke making the case for the Zone 9 bloggers who have been unjustly detained and are currently in court defending against charge of Terrorism. She ended her speech by asking what the EU was going to do for these innocent 9 bloggers.
Other speakers at the hearing included MEP Ms Ana Gomes who stated that the EU needs to do more than issue press statements to address the serious human rights violations in Ethiopia against political opposition members and journalists. Ms Gomes also stated that UK must use their influence to demand the immediate release of Mr Andargachew Tsege. Ms Gomes knows Ethiopia too well as she was the head of the EU Election Observers 2005, an election that saw the opposition win 22 out 23 seats in Addis Ababa alone. The ruling party reacted to this defeat by declaring the election null and void and imprisoning the opposition for over two years!
Mr. Dietmar Krissler who is Deputy Director for Horn of Africa EEAS (European External Action Service) spoke about the concerns the EU had in regards to the violation of Human Rights in Ethiopia. He concluded by saying that going forward EU will issue statements that shows their concern with situations in Ethiopia as and when it is necessary. He also stated that they will intervene in Andargachew Tsege’s case if and when they deem it is necessary. At the end of his speech the chair stated “I understand you need to intervene if necessary but we say it is necessary”.
MEP Mr. Petras AUŠTREVIČIUS from Lithuania asked if any actions had been taken by EU since their last statement in July in regards to the two cases that was being discussed at the hearing. He wanted to know what was being done “to bring those responsible to the daylight”. The EEAS did not answer the question with anything specific but said that they are monitoring the case in relation to election of 2015. They also added that since Mr Andargachew Tsege is a UK citizen they are led by the UK and are ready to assist the UK when UK requests their help hence no action from their part to date.
The last speaker at the hearing was the Ethiopian Embassy representative. In short summary, he tried to defend the un-defendable.
The Chair ended the hearing on the situation in Ethiopia in relation to human rights by saying that they will follow up on these two cases in two months time.
At the hearing, attendees were given statement issued by the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office in relation to Andargachew Tsege’s case, it reads as follows
The United Kingdom is concerned by the removal from Yemen to Ethiopia and subsequent detention without adequate consular access of British national, Mr Andargachew Tsege.
Andargachew was removed from Yemen to Ethiopia on 24 June 2014 without the British Embassy in Yemen being informed. Neither the Ethiopian nor Yemeni Governments have produced satisfactory information about the legal basis for his removal.
In the three months since his detention in Ethiopia began, the Ethiopian authorities have permitted only one consular visit to Andargachew, on 11 August. Despite repeated requests, Ethiopia has not yet agreed to further consular access.
We are concerned about Andargachew’s welfare and have requested at Foreign Minister level that regular consular access be given without further delay. We are committed to ensuring that Andargachew is not mistreated and that his legal rights are observed. We also continue to press for assurances that two death sentences imposed in past trials in absentia will not be carried out. Like other EU member states, the United Kingdom is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.
To view the hearing in full please click here.
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