Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday ordered the establishment of a task force at the Cabinet to oversee reviews of flaws in the disciplinary, appeal and justice systems in the military exposed by the death of army conscript Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘).
Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) was designated by Jiang to lead the task force and Minister Without Portfolio Lin Junq-tzer (林政則) will assist with the work, Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) told a press conference.
Jiang told the weekly Cabinet meeting that Hung’s tragic death had not only deeply hurt the image of the military, but affected national security because it has hurt people’s trust in the military and the plan to turn Taiwan’s military into an all-volunteer force, Cheng said.
The establishment of the task force was a positive response to the call for reforms made by former Judicial Yuan president Lai Ing-jaw (賴英照) in a recent op-ed article, while many other legal experts have also called for a thorough review of the military’s systems, Cheng said.
Separately, Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) said at a meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers that the ministry was open to discussions on active-duty military personnel being subject to civil trials, as opposed to military trials, which are considered susceptible to abuses and cover-ups.
KMT legislative caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said that the caucus yesterday set up a task force led by KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) to discuss the issue and would be able to present amendments for deliberation in the legislature in the next session.
Ting said that crimes committed by active military personnel that are not related to military intelligence and national security concerns should be handled by the civilian judiciary system.
Kao said the ministry was open to all reform initiatives on military affairs, adding that it would accept an amendment proposed by lawmakers to authorize a military judiciary only in wartime, as well as a proposal to reform the military appeals process and mechanism.
Kao also pledged to reform the management of military detention facilities.
As investigations into Hung’s death on July 4 appear to be stalling and the public’s suspicion over the neutrality of military prosecutors remains strong, the call for abolishing the military judiciary and making the civilian judiciary responsible for all legal proceedings has intensified.
Attorney Wellington Koo (顧立雄), who represents the Hung family, said the judiciary systems in Taiwan should be unified, with the Judicial Yuan the highest judicial authority and the Supreme Court having the right of adjudication.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus said on Tuesday that it would propose having military abuse cases investigated and tried by the civil judicial system, rather than by military prosecutors and judges.
Former Judicial Yuan president Lai In-jaw (賴英照) also recommended reforming the current military appeal mechanism to better protect the rights of soldiers who are being disciplined.
Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) said the ministry had been working on a military human rights protection plan that is due to be released today, as ordered by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The plan is expected to focus on improving the disciplinary system, Yang said.
In related news, senior military prosecutor Major General Tsao Chin-sheng (曹金生) said yesterday that the Supreme Military Court Prosecutors’ Office would file an appeal after its request for the detention of 542nd Brigade Captain Liu Yen-chun (劉延俊) was rejected.
Meanwhile, Kao denied a media report saying the army would offer compensation of NT$100 million (US$3.34 million) to Hung’s family. Kao said he did not know whether the army has talked with Hung’s family about the issue.