Defense minister pledges reform

TIME TO ACT::While the defense minister listed flaws in the handling of the death of corporal Hung Chung-chiu, Hung’s family reiterated they want the truth, not money

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 1

Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) yesterday listed three major flaws in the military’s handling of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu’s (洪仲丘) detention and death, and pledged to implement a comprehensive reform on military affairs. However, that did not stop Hung’s family from expressing their disappointment in the ministry.

“The military has committed three major flaws [in handling the case]: Failure to administer by law, mismanagement of the military detention facilities and inappropriate first-aid measures,” Kao told a press conference at the ministry yesterday evening after reporting to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at the Presidential Office.

Amid a snowballing controversy surrounding Hung’s death on July 4, Ma on Wednesday ordered the ministry to submit a report on improving human rights in the military by yesterday.

The preliminary report includes 13 measures to revamp and improve the current military environment and policies, including amendment of related military laws, improving human rights protection and education, improving training programs of noncommissioned officers and the political warfare system, Kao said.

The ministry also pledged to reform detention regulations and facilities, as well as prevent physical assault by officers, he said, adding that soldiers could appeal directly to Army Command in the future in case of abuse.

Kao reiterated that all military officials, regardless of their rank, would be held responsible for Hung’s death as long as their involvement is supported by evidence.

The minister also denied a rumor that he had resigned and would be replaced by former deputy defense minister Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋).

After his meeting with Kao, Ma instructed the Executive Yuan to discuss reforms of military laws and military trial mechanisms with the Legislative Yuan and the Judicial Yuan.

The report addressed issues including measures to improve the rights of soldiers in the military and to establish a better complaint system, with the aim of restoring public trust in the military.

According to Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏), Ma stressed the significance of the reform of military laws and mechanisms, and instructed the Executive Yuan to discuss related issues with the legislature and Judicial Yuan, including whether crimes in the military should be handled by the judicial system.

Ma also urged the executive and the legislative branches to join efforts and study the possibilities of amending the Military Justice Act (軍事審判法) and the Armed Force Punishment Act (陸海空軍懲罰法), she said.

Minister Without Portfolio Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) is to form a task force to work with the legislature on improving the military’s complaint system and confinement mechanism.

“Today’s reform proposal is only a draft. The ministry should respond to public expectations with sincerity and handle the case in a transparent process,” Ma was quoted as saying.

Separately yesterday, Hung’s family stepped up its criticism of the ministry, with Hung’s sister Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) saying that the circumstances leading to her brother’s death should not be viewed as “inappropriate behavior,” but “intentional torturing.”

Hung Tzu-yung said the ministry was trying to discredit the family by its offer of compensation of up to NT$100 million (US$3.3 million).

“We have always said that the truth, not money, is all we want,” she said in Greater Taichung.

She urged the ministry not to “shift the focus of the case.”

Hung Tzu-yung said that the family has examined the autopsy report, which was completed by a forensic expert yesterday. The report stated that her brother’s death was a result of “human error” rather than an accident, as the ministry had previously claimed.

Civilian and military prosecutors subpoenaed witnesses and defendants yesterday for questioning.

The Supreme Military Court’s Prosecutors’ Office yesterday summoned three witnesses, including Major Shih Yung-yuan (石永源) of the Army’s 542nd Brigade.

Tai Wen-liang (戴文亮), spokesperson of the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office, said the office is conducting an investigation on missing video footage at the detention facility where Hung was detained, trying to confirm whether the footage had been deleted and who deleted it.

Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih