Amendment to court martial code clears Legislature (update)

08/06/2013 06:30 PM
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Taipei, Aug. 6 (CNA) An amendment that will subject military servicemen to prosecution and trial in civilian courts instead of military courts for offenses committed during peacetime cleared the Legislature Tuesday.

The amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure, which was passed with support from lawmakers across the political divide, will apply to cases that have already arisen, including the death of Army corporal Hung Chung-chiu in early July.

Hung's death, which came after a series of flawed procedures leading to his incarceration and alleged abuse, prompted a public outcry to address human rights in the military and pressured lawmakers to revise the code.

The Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday that it respected the Legislature's decision.

Defense Minister Andrew Yang said the ministry would work with the Ministry of Justice on issues related to the amendment.

The military court, which until now has handled Hung's case, said Tuesday that there would not be a problem in turning over related documents to the Taoyuan District Court.

The Executive Yuan thanked the Legislature for its speedy review of the amendment and expected most related cases to be turned over to the civilian justice system within five months, according to Cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wun.

The revision to the code will be implemented in two stages.

It will immediately subject military servicemen who abuse or improperly punish subordinates, prevent them from filing grievances, obstruct their sexual autonomy, or commit manslaughter to the Code of Criminal Procedure.

As for other offenses, they will be handled in the second phase of the revision's implementation under the Code of Criminal Procedure five months after the amended law is promulgated.

Offenses committed in wartime will continue to be prosecuted under the Code of Court Martial Procedure and its special law, according to the amendment.

The revision also requires that cases currently under investigation, trial or execution by the military court system be turned over to the civilian justice system if the investigation and trial have yet to be completed.

Hung, a 24-year-old conscript, was subjected to exercises that were "unbearable, cruel and abusive," resulting in his death from multiple organ failure triggered by heatstroke, according to military prosecutors.

He was allegedly forced to perform strenuous exercises in sweltering heat as punishment for taking a camera-equipped cell phone onto his base in Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan.

Eighteen Army officers, including the former commander of Hung's brigade, have been indicted for offenses related to Hung's death, ranging from abuse leading to death to illegal punishment of a subordinate and obstructing personal liberty, according to military prosecutors.

But the indictments failed to quell public outrage over the military's lack of transparency in handling the case.

Two massive demonstrations have been held to express the public's anger and call for better protection of human rights in the military, with the most recent one near the Presidential Office on Aug. 3 drawing a crowd estimated at between 110,000 and 250,000 people.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Rogge Chen and Lilian Wu)

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