New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) listed the release of the seven
as one of the conditions the international community should demand
before resumption of economic aid to Zimbabwe's coalition government.
The seven – Gwenzi Kahiya, Ephraim Mabeka, Lovemore Machokoto, Charles
Muzza, Edmore Vangirayi, Graham Matehwa and Peter Munyanyi – were part
of more than 30 MDC activists and human rights defenders abducted by
the secret police between October and December 2008.
More than 20 of the abductees have been accounted for and produced in
court where they have been charged with plotting to topple Mugabe or
engaging in acts of banditry.
The whereabouts of the seven are unknown, raising fears they may have
died at the hands of their captors who have been accused of severely,
torturing their victims.
HRW urged international donors to withhold development aid to Zimbabwe
until the Zanu (PF) element in the power-sharing government stopped
ongoing rights abuses and backed serious reforms.
Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti was in the United Kingdom and
the United States last week to ask the British and American governments
for direct financial support.
"Humanitarian aid that focuses on the needs of Zimbabwe’s most
vulnerable should continue," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at
Human Rights Watch.
She said donor governments should not release development aid until
there are irreversible changes on human rights, the rule of law and
In the short term, Human Rights Watch called on the power-sharing
government to disclose the whereabouts of the seven "disappeared"
persons, end harassment of civil society activists, student leaders and
MDC activists, and free those who have been illegally abducted, the
It called for an independent probe into allegations of torture and the
prosecution of those implicated in the abuses regardless of their
It also urged donor governments to demand an immediate cession of farm invasions and the removal of the illegal land occupiers.
Gangs of marauding Zanu (PF) supporters have raided more than 100
white-owned farms since the formation of the unity government in
February in violation of a power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and
former opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.
The continued farm invasions have worsened Zimbabwe's prospects of
receiving much-needed balance-of-payments support which is crucial to
revive the comatose economy.