Lawmakers inspect army detention facility

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - Page 3

Seven lawmakers yesterday inspected the detention facility of the army’s 269th Brigade in Gaoshanting (高山頂), Taoyuan County, as the controversy over army corporal Hung Chung-chiu’s (洪仲丘) death began focusing on missing sections of the surveillance video at the facility.

The lawmakers were only able to briefly examine the environment and the surveillance equipment at the camp, where Hung was forced to do punishing exercises and died in hospital on July 4 due to heat exhaustion.

The viewing angle of the outdoor camera is manually adjustable, strengthening suspicions that the footage had been deleted by military personnel, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) told a press conference in Taipei after the tour.

Hung was detained in one of the six detention rooms in the facility, which has 16 surveillance cameras — nine indoors and seven outdoors — with at least five officers and non-commissioned officers monitoring the cameras around the clock, Hsiao said.

The military has said that a key 80-minute portion of footage, covering 2pm to 3:20pm on July 1, from cameras monitoring an area where the 23-year-old Hung was forced to perform strenuous exercises as part of his punishment, was blank because all 16 cameras had stopped working.

Hung’s family and others have suggested that foul play may be behind the missing footage.

Hsiao said foul play was possible because the viewing angle of the outdoor cameras, which were installed at a lower height than the indoor ones, could be easily adjusted.

While it has yet to be determined how many of the 16 cameras malfunctioned at the time, it was impossible that all five officers — three in the War Room and one each at different locations in the facility — did not notice the blackout, if there was one, on screen, Hsiao said.

She added that if there was a blackout, the officers and the 269th Brigade commander failed in their duty by not reporting the problem immediately.

The lawmakers also found that the outdoor cameras were able to capture the entire length of the exercise yard, as opposed to the Ministry of National Defense’s claim that there were gaps, which was why Hung’s activities were not monitored, she said.

Hsiao said the ministry should immediately place all personnel related to the surveillance program under its witness protection program so they would be free to speak about what happened.

Meanwhile, DPP headquarters held the first meeting of its seven-member military human rights reform panel and demanded that President and Commander-in-chief Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) set a deadline for a resolution of the case.

The panel, convened by former premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), also asked that the government establish a joint investigation task force, consisting of military and judicial investigators and legislators, to establish an ad hoc document request committee on human rights cases involving the military.

At another news conference, the DPP legislative caucus demanded that the ministry submit a report on Hung’s case, as well as previous human rights cases, in the upcoming extra legislative session, which is scheduled to begin on Monday next week.

“We think [the military] should reinvestigate all controversial cases wherein the soldier died suspiciously, possibly because of murder or torture,” DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said.