(MWC) Andergachew Tsige, Ethiopian brutality, British apathy

From: Biniam Tekle <biniamt_at_dehai.org_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2015 23:07:48 -0400


Andergachew Tsige, Ethiopian brutality, British apathy

Thursday, 02 April 2015 08:33

By Graham Peebles
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On 23rd June 2014 Andergachew Tsige was illegally detained at Sana’a
airport in Yemen whilst travelling from Dubai to Eritrea on his
British passport. He was swiftly handed over to the Ethiopian
authorities, who had for years posted his name at the top of the
regime’s most wanted list. Since then he has been detained
incommunicado in a secret location inside Ethiopia. His ‘crime’ is the
same as hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, publicly criticising
the ruling party of Ethiopia, and their brutal form of governance.

Born in Ethiopia in 1955, Andergachew arrived in Britain aged 24, as a
political refugee. He is a British citizen, a black working class
British citizen with a wife and three children. Despite repeated
efforts by his family and the wider Ethiopian community – including
demonstrations, petitions and a legal challenge – the British
government (which is the third biggest donor to Ethiopia, giving
around £376 million a year in aid), have done little or nothing to
secure this innocent man’s release, or ensure his safe treatment
whilst in detention.

After nine months of official indifference, trust and faith in the
British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is giving way to
cynicism and anger amongst Tsige’s supporters. Is the FCO’s apathy due
to his colour, his ‘type’ or ‘level’ of Britishness; is there a
hierarchy of citizenship in Britain? If he had been born in England,
to white, middle class parents, attended the right schools (educated
privately as over half the British cabinet was) and forged the right
social connections, would he be languishing in an Ethiopian prison,
where he is almost certainly being tortured, abused and mistreated?

Consistently ignored

Tsige is the secretary general of Ginbot 7, a campaign group which
fiercely opposes the policies of the Ethiopian party-state, controlled
for 24 years by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
(EPRDF). It highlights the regime’s many and varied human-rights
violations and calls for adherence to liberal ideals of justice and
freedom, as enshrined in the country’s constitution—a broadly
democratic piece of fiction which is consistently ignored by the
ruling party (even through the EPRDF wrote it).

Political dissent inside Ethiopia has been criminalised in all but
name by the EPRDF. Freedom of assembly, of expression, and of the
media, are all denied, so too affiliation to opposition parties. Aid
that flows through the government is distributed on a partisan basis,
so too employment opportunities and university places. The media is
almost exclusively state owned, Internet access (which at 2% of the
population is the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa), is monitored and
restricted; the government would criminalise thought if they could.

The population lives under suffocating repression and fear and the
vast majority appear to despise the government. Human rights are
ignored and acts of state violence– some of which, according to human
rights groups, constitute crimes against humanity – are commonplace.
Such is the reality of life inside the country for the vast majority.
It is this stifling reality of daily suffering which drives Tsige and
other members of Ginbot 7, forcing them to speak out—action that has
cost him his liberty.

For challenging the EPRDF, in 2009 and 2012, he was charged under the
notorious Anti-Terrorist Proclamation of 2009, tried in absentia and
given the death penalty. The judiciary in Ethiopia is constitutionally
and morally bound to independence, but in practice it operates as an
unjust arm of the EPRDF. The judiciary in Ethiopia is constitutionally
and morally bound to independence but in practice it operates as an
unjust arm of the EPRDF.

A trial where the defendant is not present violates the second
principle of natural justice, audi alteram partem (hear the other
party) – and is therefore illegitimate. Such legal niceties, however,
mean nothing to the EPRDF, who have dutifully signed up to all manner
of international covenants, but ignore them all. The regime likes
trying its detractors who live overseas (activists, journalists,
political opponents) in their absence and securing outrageous
judgements against them, particularly the death penalty or life
imprisonment. They rule, as all such groups do, by the cultivation of
that ancient tool of control: fear.

British complicity

Given the nature of the EPRDF government, little in the way of
justice, compassion and fairness can be expected, in relation to
Tsige, or indeed anyone else in custody. Self-deluding and immune to
criticism, the EPRDF distorts the truth and justifies violent acts of
repression and false imprisonment as safeguarding their country from
‘terrorism’. The only form of terrorism rampaging through Ethiopia is
State terrorism, perpetrated by the EPRDF and their vicious thugs, in
and out of uniform.

Andergachew Tsige is a UK citizen and the UK government has a
constitutional and moral responsibility to act energetically and
forcefully on his behalf; to their shame, so far the FCO and the
coalition government more broadly, have been consistently woeful in
their efforts. In February a delegation of parliamentarians, led by
Jeremy Corbyn, his local MP was due to visit Ethiopia in an effort to
secure his release. But the trip was abandoned after a meeting with
the Ethiopian ambassador. A member of the team, Lord Dholakia,
vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ethiopia, said it
was made clear that they would not be welcome: the ambassador
reportedly told them “that there was no need for them to go to
Ethiopia as the case is being properly handled by the courts”.

Again – nonsense: Andergachew is yet to be formally charged, has been
denied contact with his British solicitors, as well as consular
support, and has received only one brief visit from the British
ambassador, in August; a meeting controlled fully by the Ethiopians.
The FCO have said they “remain deeply concerned about Ethiopia’s
refusal to allow regular consular visits to Mr. Tsege and his lack of
access to a lawyer, and are concerned that others seeking to visit him
have also been refused access.” So why are you not acting, using your
‘special’ position to secure this innocent man’s release: do
something, is the cry of the family, the community and all right
minded people.

At what point, does neglect in the face of injustice and abuse become
complicity? If a Government allows illegal detention and the violation
of international justice to take place and says and acts not, are they
not guilty in aiding and abetting such actions? If Governments give
funds to a ruling party – the EPRDF – that is killing, raping,
imprisoning and torturing its own citizens, and they do and say
nothing – as the British, the American’s, and the European Union do,
even though they know what’s happening – they are, it is clear,
complicit in the crimes being committed.
Received on Thu Apr 02 2015 - 23:08:27 EDT

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