Sat, Jul 12, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Judicial shake-up overdue

The outrage over the death last year of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) led to a massive shake-up of the armed forces’ disciplinary and judicial systems, including the transfer of all military criminal cases to the civilian judicial system during peacetime.

While most of the public applauded the changes, there was unhappiness within the military — serving and retired — with talk about the need for discipline and how civilians could not comprehend the chain of command or the court martial system.

However, it was not just Hung’s death, nor those of other conscripts in recent years, that helped bring about such a seismic shift in military life. The fallout from the posthumous acquittal in September 2011 of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶), who was executed in 1997 for the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl, was also a crucial factor.

His acquittal only came about after a Control Yuan investigation in 2010 found that Chiang had been tortured by military investigators into confessing, before being convicted in a speedy court martial.

The results of a more recent Control Yuan investigation into the Chiang case show just how necessary last year’s overhaul of the military’s judicial system really was.

Four Control Yuan members on Thursday issued a report that lays bare the high-level interference by top brass in the Chiang case — and how his court martial was allowed to continue, even though top brass knew that a second air force serviceman, Hsu Jung-chou (許榮洲), had confessed to the crimes.

Control Yuan member Ma Yi-kung (馬以工) said that among the original documents provided by the Ministry of National Defense were eight handwritten notes from former minister of national defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏), who was air force commander-in-chief at the time, including one note in which he wrote that he was aware Hsu had confessed to the rape and murder, but that it would cause too much trouble to high-ranking officers if it turned out that Hsu had a mental disorder.

A second note asked the court to negotiate with the political warfare department to find the “lowest acceptable standards” so that charges against Chiang would be upheld and the military could show that his court martial was fair, Ma said.

The judge in charge of the Chiang case told the Control Yuan members that he had to have the consent of then-Air Force Command Headquarters’ legal affairs director before he was able to summon witnesses or deliver official documents.

Control Yuan member Shen Mei-chen (沈美真) said that normal judicial procedures would have required the military court to have suspended the case against Chiang upon learning of Hsu’s confession. That it did not do so was evidence that it was not operating independently and was pressured by senior officers, she said.

Chen may not be the only one to blame for such a miscarriage of justice, but his ability to evade moral — and financial — responsibility is abhorrent. He received a demerit in his personnel file, which did not affect his pension, and he is continuing to fight the ministry’s effort to get him — and several other former officers — to repay the ministry some of the millions it paid in compensation to the Chiang family in 2011. The Taipei District Court Prosecutors’ Office decided (twice) in 2012 that Chen and others had not broken any criminal law in the case.

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