I am aware of the suggestion that the UK Government should directly call for Mr Tsege’s release. As my predecessor has previously stated, Britain does not interfere in the legal systems of other countries by challenging convictions, any more than we would accept interference in our judicial system. We do, however, lobby strongly and consistently against the application of the death penalty, and against the carrying out of such sentences when they are imposed.
The lack of intervention came as a surprise to Andy’s partner, Yemi Hailemarium, who wrote in The Huffington Post:
When Boris became Foreign Secretary, I hoped he would help Andy. After all, as Mayor of London, he wrote to me saying, “I am truly saddened to hear of Mr Tsege’s situation… with no foreign policy remit, any other intervention is beyond my powers as Mayor of London… I very much hope Mr Tsege safely returns to the UK in the near future.”
But now, the Foreign Office believes that doing more for Andy “would have consequences for [our] relationship with Ethiopia”.
Zaghari Ratcliffe’s case
The FCO has intervened in other cases, but the current government has a pattern of refusing to intervene where individuals may hold dual nationalities.
Only recently was the indictment on Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe concluded, with a 5-year sentence now passed down. A dual British-Iranian held on unknown charges, her sentence was handed down by the Islamic Revolutionary Court on 6 September, the day after the UK and Iran upgraded diplomatic relations and appointed ambassadors to each others’ countries.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said that:
Nazanin’s detention and charges have always felt like she and Gabriella are being held as a political bargaining chip for internal and international politics. The fact that she was sentenced with unrecognisable charges the day after the UK Embassy was upgraded, makes this all the clearer.
Both Andy Tsege and Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe are British citizens. But they have not been afforded what others have been afforded – the government’s protection in consular matters.
Reprieve states in its campaign:
On every British passport, it says that Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State promises to ensure that the bearer should receive “such assistance and protection as may be necessary”. Most of us will never need that assistance and protection, but Andy Tsege does.
That is why Reprieve and Ratcliffe are calling for people to do what Boris Johnson has refused – to demand Tsege and Zaghari Ratcliffe’s freedom.
– Join the campaign by Reprieve to help set Andy Tsege free.
– Sign the petition to Free Nazanin.
– Read more of our international reporting by The Canary Global.
– Support The Canary if you appreciate the work we do.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons