WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) issued the following statement in response to news reports that one of the Young Front leaders, 19-year-old Zmitser Fedaruk was beaten by riot police during an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Belarus. According to witnesses, Fedaruk was beaten and knocked unconscious by riot policemen, then rushed by ambulance to the hospital.
“The merciless beating of Mr. Fedaruk is both outrageous and tragic. Just last week, he was here in Washington appearing before the Helsinki Commission, where he spoke of the dangers young human rights activists face in Belarus. I not only stand behind Mr. Fedaruk’s fight for freedom, but I condemn in the strongest possible terms these acts of violence against innocent individuals. Belarus’ dismal track record with respect for human rights and democracy is no secret. Unfortunately, the intimidation and abuse by Alexander Lukashenka’s regime does not seem to be coming to an end any time soon. My colleagues and I on the Helsinki Commission are determined to stand by young Mr. Fedaruk and all those in Belarus – young and old – struggling for freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.”
On December 4, Fedaruk testified before the Helsinki Commission at a briefing entitled, “The Future Belarus: Democracy or Dictatorship?” that focused on the prospects for change in a country that is widely considered to have Europe’s worst record with respect to human rights and democracy. During the briefing, Fedaruk commented, “We want to present a new generation of Belarusian youth which will join the Front, young people who believe in God and love their country, because such features were very usual for the people who also founded your country. So we have a good example before our eyes.”