Myo Myint was a soldier serving for the suppressive military regime in Burma. The documentary Burma Soldier was screened recently at IDFA. In the film, Myint talks about how the soldiers harassed and raped women from ethnic minority groups – as to be expected as one’s “daily meal”. He turned against the regime, helping to organize political protests together with Aung San Suu Kyi. He also established a library with forbidden books. This man, who had already lost one leg and parts of his arms in the military, was now imprisoned for fifteen years. He was put into isolation, tortured, hit so hard that his teeth cracked, and put into a plastic can – excruciatingly painful for an amputee. After serving his sentence he was under surveillance but managed to escape to Thailand, and from there to the US – where he still protests against the Burmese military regime; a regime where a general can use an amount comparing to three health budgets on his daughter’s wedding, as is seen in the film.

A country doesn’t have to be named Burma to be suppressive or use torture.
Another impressive documentary and winner of the Jury Price at IDFA was You Don’t Like the Truth – 4 Days inside Guantánamo, which is based on surveillance videos released from Guantánamo. The interrogated young Canadian man Omar Khadr, who at fifteen was visiting Afghanistan and was waiting with some of his father’s friends in a house when they were attacked by American special soldiers. One American was killed, and Khadr is charged for it. But that sounds very unlikely – the film shows an archive photo of him unarmed, lying almost dead in the dusty ruins.

We follow in the film the psychologically gruelling interrogation over four days by Canadian intelligence cooperating with the US at the American base. His innocence is confirmed by interviews with his cellmate, his lawyer, one Canadian military prosecutor and government officials, a psychiatrist and an investigative journalist. But he had to confess to the charges, to have any hope of coming out of prison within his lifetime.

Khadr was the first person to be charged for war crimes since the Nuremberg trials in the 1940s. With the charge and the time served at Guantánamo he will be in prison for fifteen years – just as Myint was in Burma. When I asked the Canadian director Luc Coté after the screening in Amsterdam, he told me they hadn’t managed to get hold of any of the American soldiers who attacked the building. Why? They don’t exist officially. Khadr had no hope of getting a fair trial – it was obviously a politically motivated process involving secret manoeuvres, which the public would never be permitted to see.

The website WikiLeaks was actually trying to disclose such abuse of power around the globe. They have published one million documents the last four years – on bank fraud, oil scandals, toxic spills, nuclear disasters, corruption, but also the interrogation manual from the above-mentioned place where Khadr was imprisoned, Guantánamo. And lastly, the well-known leakage of 251,287 documents – of which 15,000 were marked secret – from the internal communication system SIRPnet, used by the US Foreign and Defence departments.

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