GUBOPiK, The Regime’s Punitive Agency for Combating Dissent

Report by International Committee for Investigation of Torture in Belarus

“Barsukov approaches the guards from GUBOPiK. He talked to them very friendly: “Sons, are you all still working?” He looks at me: “Why are you looking at me, zmagar? Do you want me to shoot? And I’ll get away with it.”

From the victim’s interview

The report is based on information concerning massive violations of human rights and crimes by law enforcement agencies in Belarus during 2020-2022. The experts analyzed 33 interviews of persons interviewed by the International Committee for investigation of torture in Belarus at different times (from August 2020 to September 2022). People were either detained by GUBOPiK employees, or tortured in the premises of this structure and its employees, or were subjected to humiliating search procedures, forced to testify, and the creation of repentant videos confessing guilt for actions that cannot be considered criminal.

The Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (GUBOPiK) is a special unit in the system of internal affairs bodies that deals with:

  • anti-corruption;
  • combating organized crime;
  • suppression and disclosure of grave and especially grave crimes;
  • illegal migration;
  • suppression of terrorist and extremist manifestations.

However, the main focus of the GUBOPiK for many years has been directed to the fight against dissent in the Republic of Belarus. This mainly involves the third department (for countering extremism), which consists of three departments:

  • on countering extremism in radical public and other formations,
  • on countering extremism in ethnic, religious entities and illegal migration,
  • computer intelligence department. The third department is headed by Mikhail Petrovich Bedunkevich.

During the 2020 protests, the GUBOPiK security forces were involved in the physical suppression of street actions and the detention of their participants. For these purposes, 4 “Ataki” groups were formed within the department, which also included servicemen of the special operations forces of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus. GUBOPiK is not limited to the functions of detaining protesters. Employees of this unit are also engaged in interrogating detainees, checking for subscriptions to Telegram channels banned in Belarus, involvement in any “extremist” formations or activities. Andrey Ananenko (head of the Main Directorate) has been in charge of the department since September 2022.

The actions of the GUBOPiK are subject to the Law “On Counteracting Extremism”, which was adopted in 2007 and changed 8 times by the end of 2021.

The Law “On Counteracting Extremism” in its latest version of May 14, 2021 introduced an unprecedented out-of-court procedure for recognizing groups of citizens (informal organizations, online communities, etc.) as extremist formations.

On April 27, 2022, the Republic of Belarus hastily introduced the death penalty for an unfinished crime –  for an attempt to commit an act of terrorism.

During detentions at mass protests, it is difficult to identify the security forces of the GUBOPiK, since they do not wear a single uniform and do not have any identification marks on them. As a rule, employees are dressed in civilian clothes, most often sports clothes – “the window was broken by people in civilian clothes in hoods, masks and with truncheons.” Later, they began to be identified by indirect signs: body armor, helmets, balaclavas – and / or the presence of special equipment, such as a rubber truncheon, weapons, etc.

Of the 33 respondents, three people were abducted by the security forces of GUBOPiK. The victims were in a difficult psychological state from several hours to several days. They were beaten and humiliated, and they were also threatened with physical violence.

The common thing for the victims is that all of them were detained by the employees of the third department of the GUBOPiK. Detentions took place in the homes of citizens, at protests, on the streets, public transport stops and other public places. The employees acted harshly, all their actions were accompanied by beatings and insults.

During the transfer to the departments of internal affairs or the GUBOPiK of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the security forces beat the detainees, threatened them with physical and sexual violence with truncheons. Women and young girls reported constant insults during transport, swearing, and threats of sexual violence. The vast majority of the victims felt real threats to their health and life at these moments.

During searches in the homes of citizens, the security forces of the GUBOPiK did not introduce themselves, did not provide their service certificates, and often did not present documents for conducting legal proceedings. The searches were carried out in an atmosphere of violence, fear and threats. In most cases, searches turned into unbridled pogroms of dwellings.

In 2020, the GUBOPiK, the main punitive body of the regime, received absolute permissiveness and, accordingly, impunity. They openly expose all their atrocities: they publish in their Telegram channels and talk about the persecution of citizens in the state media, thereby pursuing a policy of intimidation of the opposition-minded part of the population of Belarus. Perverted cruelty during detentions, searches and interrogations occurs with the approval of the leadership, which is the Ministry of Internal Affairs under the leadership of Ivan Kubrakov and personally Lukashenka.

It should also be noted that in accordance with the norms of international criminal law and Part 3 of Art. 6 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, criminal liability under Art. 128 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus occurs regardless of the criminal law that was in force at the place where the act was committed (the universal principle of the criminal law in space).

This means that citizens of the Republic of Belarus, as well as foreigners who have committed crimes against the security of mankind in our country, can be held accountable for this crime not only in the Republic of Belarus, but also in another country on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Taking into account the fact that the crime under Art. 128 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, refers to the most dangerous crimes against the peace and security of mankind, art. 85 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus establishes that persons guilty of committing this crime are not subject to release from criminal liability or punishment due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

“I then thought that I should take care of finding a cord or a blade in order to be able to commit suicide just in case”.