Sympa The School of Young Managers in Public Administration

One Year in Detention. Researcher Tatiana Kouzina


Today, 28 June 2022, marks one year since Tatiana Kouzina, a political scientist, researcher and one of the founders of the SYMPA project (School of Young Managers in Public Administration) was detained at Minsk National Airport on her way for a short-term visit to Georgia. She was charged under two articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus: "Conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means" (part 1 of article 357) and "Appeals to actions aiming at damaging the national security of the Republic of Belarus" (part 3 of article 361).

However, the essence of the charges, the reasons for Tatiana's arrest  and, even more so, her detention for such a long period of time remain unknown. As in the case of many other political prisoners in Belarus, Tatiana's lawyer is bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and her family and friends have no opportunity to learn any further details about her case. It is unclear when this case will be sent to court, or when and if one can expect any developments. The only thing that can be said for sure about Tatiana's case is that she did not commit any of the crimes she is charged with. Tatiana's only "fault" is that she is a truly high-caliber professional and a very good person.

Today, there are so many political prisoners in Belarus deprived of freedom without any real reason, that the tragic stories of each of them are in some way lost behind these inconceivable numbers. Every day brings news of detention, torture, persecution. However, it is still important to tell the story of each and every political prisoner, if only on such sad occasions as anniversaries of incarceration.

Tatiana Kouzina is well known in the expert, academic and research community of Belarus, as well as among those who have been engaged in the third sector in one way or another for a long time. Some know Tatiana from her work at the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), where she was the administrative director. Some people know Tatiana from her work at the European Humanities University (EHU) while it was still based in Minsk, or in the first difficult years of its relocation to Lithuania, when Tatiana helped both with the re-establishment of the university after its politically motivated closure in Belarus in 2004 and with resolving various issues faced by many students and employees. Some know Tatiana as an expert and researcher who works with a variety of topics, not only nationally, but also internationally. Many have met and know Tatiana from SYMPA, from her research on civil society and public administration, from her lectures on civic participation and her contributions to various discussions and debates.

Today, on the day that marks one year since Tatiana—who has never done anything wrong—was detained, it is important to think about her, to say the good things that need to be said about her "urbi et orbi." It is important to remember that repressions against both individual experts and the research community  in Belarus as a whole take place regularly. Most of the known organisations ,including SYMPA, have been liquidated or are in the process of liquidation.  Several recognised  representatives of the expert community are either under investigation or imprisoned, including philosopher Uladzimir Matskevich, who was sentenced to five years in a strengthened regime penal colony; expert Valeria Kostyugova, who remains  in pre-trial detention; sociologist Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya, who has been sentenced to two and a half years of restricted freedom in an open penal facility, and others.  

The easiest way to support Tatiana Kouzina and other political prisoners is to write them a letter, send them a postcard or a telegram. You can also make a symbolic money transfer or send a parcel (to those in pre-trial detention). This helps our unjustly imprisoned friends and colleagues remain connected to  the outside world and to know  that we stand  with them.

Address for letters: 220030, Minsk, Volodarskogo street, 2, SIZO-1, Kouzina Tatiana Sergeevna.

Freedom to Tatiana Kouzina! Freedom to all political prisoners in Belarus!