Noting the gap between public expectations and prosecutors’ understanding of the statute of limitations in the case of the wrongful execution of airman Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) in 1996, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday suggested that the Ministry of Justice review regulations governing retroactive indictments.
Ma’s remarks came in the wake of prosecutors’ decision on Tuesday not to file charges against Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏), the former air force commanding officer involved in the case, and other military officers that erred during Chiang’s trial in 1996.
Chiang, 21, was executed by the military after being found guilty of raping and murdering a five-year-old girl, although the verdict was overturned on DNA evidence earlier this year. The case was reopened last year after the Control Yuan declared that it suspected torture had been used to extract Chiang’s confession.
The prosecutors’ decision on Tuesday ignited debate in the legislature yesterday, with lawmakers across party lines rejecting it as unacceptable and calling on judicial officials to pursue Chen under the Criminal Code, which has a 20-year statute of limitations.
“I don’t think anybody can accept this,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said of the dismissal of charges by prosecutors. “The dead can no longer protest, but even the living will find this unacceptable.”
A loss of credibility in the judicial system and the need for justice for Chiang’s surviving family members were cited by lawmakers as the reasons why Chen, who oversaw the case at the time, should be severely punished.
Lee said the party believed Chen could be prosecuted on a charge of criminal neglect causing death, which has a 20-year statute of limitations. He said there was no reason that the charge could not be used, given the severity of the case.
Chinese Nationalist Pary (KMT) Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said Chen should apologize to Chiang’s family and the public.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has to do what it can to assist Chiang’s family in seeking the highest compensation of NT$30 million (US$1.036 million), otherwise the KMT caucus will boycott its bills, he said, to which Ma, who serves as KMT chairman, agreed.
There has also been talk of revising the law to revoke the pension and other benefits for Chen, who retired as defense minister.
“Even if prosecutors refuse to file charges against Chen, we will take away his benefits as a [retiree],” DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said. “If the government can’t do this, I am concerned that more cases like this will still take place in the future.”
KMT Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民) also proposed that the government consider doing away with military law when the country is not at war and review whether it is still necessary to maintain counter-intelligence units in the military.
“Military laws tend to disregard the human rights of military -personnel as they are -characterized by cruel and unusual punishments and hasty trials. It was under pressure that the military supposedly cracked the case and wrongly indicted and executed Chiang,” he said.
At a separate setting yesterday, Control Yuan member Shen Mei-chen (沈美真) also urged lawmakers to fix the loopholes in related rules.
“I could only say that it is with great regret that there are currently no rules or regulations that can be applied to hold [Chen and involved military personnel] responsible,” Shen said.