The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) organised a roundtable meeting on the challenges facing the rule of law in Ethiopia on 18 October.
We would like to thank PHRG Joint Vice-Chair, Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, for chairing.
The speakers were:
- Allan Hogarth – Policy and Government Affairs, Amnesty International UK (AH);
- Ben Cooper – Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers (BC);
- Maya Foa – Director, Reprieve (MF);
- Yemi Hailemariam – Partner of Andy Tsege, UK national imprisoned in Ethiopia facing the death penalty (YH).
The main points which arose were as follows:
- There have been continuous protests in Ethiopia since 2015 and excessive force used to deal with them has resulted in the deaths of hundreds. Many protestors have been labelled as terrorists by the Government. (AH)
- The UK could use international, including UN, mechanisms to hold Ethiopia to account for its poor human rights record. Ethiopia is currently a member of UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, both forums the UK could use to raise these issues. (AH)
- The Anti-Terror Proclamation Law in Ethiopia is being used as a way of restricting the freedoms of the population. The Anti-Terror Proclamation Act came into force in 2009 and has allowed the Government to restrict a wide range of freedoms, by, for example, being used as a pretext to arrest human rights defenders and representatives of civil society organisations. (AH & BC)
- There is little point lobbying for a lawyer or a fair trial for Andy Tsege given the very limited possibility of an appeal. There is no appeals process for those sentenced to death in absentia. Although 20 lawyers in Ethiopia were contacted about Andy’s case, 19 were uncontactable or did not reply. There is also no independent judiciary in Ethiopia. More generally, these are simply the wrong requests given that Andy has no case to answer and is himself a victim of a crime. (MF)
- There appear to be some inconsistencies in the UK Government’s position regarding UK nationals or dual nationals abroad. There have been cases where nationals in difficulties abroad have been helped considerably by the UK Government and/or where the UK Government requested a person’s release, and this should be the case with Andy too. (MF)
- The UK Government and the Foreign Office could be doing more for Andy, such as pushing for regular consular visits to see him in private in the prison in which he is being held, with a view to better protecting his welfare. There are many ways to put pressure on the Ethiopian Government, including through the many links the UK has with Ethiopia. (AH, MF & YH)
- During the Q&A, it was suggested that Andy should ask for a pardon as that may be the best way to get him back to the UK.
The PHRG will continue to monitor developments in Ethiopia, including in connection with the case of Andy Tsege, very closely, and to raise its concerns with relevant interlocutors.