Families of victims of military “injustice” yesterday cast doubt on the government’s determination to reform the military, saying the Military Appeals Committee was rejecting too many petitions.
Accompanied by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators, the families held a press conference at the legislature to announce the establishment of the “Association for the Promotion of Human Rights in the Military and for Victim Assistance” (軍中人權暨受害家屬協會).
“Of the 52 appeals submitted to the committee after it was founded on Aug. 29 last year, as many as 51 were dismissed. A common reason for dismissal is: ‘Substitute serviceman is not a solider,’” association spokesperson Yang Yueh-ching (楊月清) said.
Yang was referring to 26-year-old Chen Chun-ming (陳俊銘), who was found dead in his bed — with 13 cuts to his body — at the Chenggong Ling (成功嶺) training camp in April 2012, three months before his scheduled discharge.
Chen’s death was ruled a suicide, though he had been preparing to enroll in a master’s degree program at the National Taipei University of Technology.
A “substitute serviceman” is a conscript whose height, weight or physical condition should have precluded them from service or those who are performing alternative service in a non-military capacity.
The 15-member committee was established in the wake of the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died in July last year, just days before his conscription term was set to end.
DPP Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) said the committee’s “unbelievably high” dismissal rate suggested that it was for decorative purposes only, urging it to “stand in the families’ shoes” and do its utmost to find out what had happened to their loved ones.
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said the ministry should also deal with cases that occurred more than 20 years ago to give the victims’ families justice.
Committee convener Tsai Yu-ling (蔡玉玲) said that as of last month, the committee had received 182 appeals and only 15 had been dismissed.
The committee only handles cases of deaths or disappearances that occurred within the two decades before it was formed, the Executive Yuan said in a press release yesterday.
“The Military Service System Act (兵役法) stipulates that substitute servicemen should not be granted the identity of ‘military personnel’ during their service, so they do not fall under the committee’s mandate,” it said.
“The 20-year limit was set because no action can be taken in cases that exceed the 20 year statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases,” the Executive Yuan said.
Meanwhile, the ministry said it has drafted an amendment to the Punishment Act of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍懲罰法) to reform disciplinary systems.
The amendment calls for detention barracks to be converted into rooms for introspection, where heavy physical exercises will be banned and spiritual education offered instead, ministry human resource official Colonel Chang Hsi-chih (張熙志) said.
Chang said additional ventilation and lighting would be incorporated into the new rooms, making them similar to regular barracks.
The daily schedule for the rooms would be divided into three parts: eight hours of classes, eight hours of rest and eight hours for sleep, he said.
The eight hours set aside for classes would include six hours of military discipline courses, an hour for “spiritual counseling” and an hour of free time, he said..