The UK Government is training senior members of Ethiopia’s security sector, despite the illegal detention of a British father on the country’s death row. The news comes as 53 MPs and peers call on the Foreign Office to secure Andy Tsege’s return from unlawful detention.
A freedom of information request by international human rights organisation Reprieve has shown that senior members of Ethiopia’s police, military, justice ministry and diplomatic corps are studying for an MSc in Security Sector Management, as part of a UK-aid funded program.
The revelations come amid growing concerns for British father of three Andy Tsege, who is on death row in Ethiopia.
53 MPs and peers from across the political spectrum have written to the Foreign Office to request that ministers “make representations – privately or publicly – for Mr Tsege’s release.” The politicians, representing the Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, Greens and SDLP, criticise what they say is a set of “limited demands” that the government has made to Ethiopia so far, in relation to his case.
Mr Tsege has been imprisoned unlawfully in Ethiopia since 2014, when he was kidnapped at an international airport and rendered to a secret Ethiopian prison. Mr Tsege is a prominent critic of Ethiopia’s ruling party, and his ordeal is thought to be linked to a wider crackdown on dissent in the country. In 2009, while Mr Tsege was living in London, an Ethiopian court handed him an in absentia death sentence.
The Foreign Office has stopped short of requesting Mr Tsege’s return to the UK, instead focusing on a regular consular and legal access for him. However, the Ethiopian authorities have only agreed to sporadic consular access, while Mr Tsege has been prevented from contacting a lawyer. Ethiopian officials have said Mr Tsege faces no prospect of appealing his death sentence.
In 2014, the Department for International Development told Reprieve that it had cancelled a similar MSc programme because of “concerns about risk and value for money”. However, the programme was restarted several months later under the £1bn Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), with the oversight of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
This month, a Parliamentary committee on the National Security Strategy issued a report that heavily criticised the government’s use of the CSSF, saying the Fund was dogged by a “fundamental lack of transparency”. They also warned that CSSF projects carried a risk of UK complicity in abuses.
Ethiopian officials told the ‘Ethiopian Reporter’ newspaper in 2016 that “some 90% of the senior officials currently serving in Ethiopia’s intelligence institutions have completed their masters degree in the UK on subjects related to security.” They added: “The courses are fully financed by the UK government.”
Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at Reprieve, said:
“It’s shameful that the UK is funding Ethiopia’s security sector, when Ethiopian forces are holding a British dad illegally on death row. MPs are right to express serious concern over the government’s approach. Boris Johnson must explain why his department is training Ethiopian security officials, but refusing to negotiate Andy Tsege’s return home to Britain.”
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.