Lawmakers want to reform military justice system

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Chris Wang  /  Staff reporters

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 3

Lawmakers from across party lines, fed up with what they see as slow investigation into the death of army conscript Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), have decided to review the courts-martial jurisdiction covering active-duty service members.

Both the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday said the issue would be addressed when the legislature holds a second extra session, which opens on Tuesday.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) has proposed an amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法), which he said the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of National Defense have both agreed to.

The proposal stipulates that military tribunals’ jurisdiction would only cover military offenses related to state secrets or committed during a time of war, to the exclusion of human rights violations, Ting said.

In peacetime, military offenses related to transgressions against human rights, homicide, larceny, sex-related offenses, drug and alcohol-related offenses, and cases related to disciplinary punishments and the military appeal mechanism under the Armed Forces Criminal Act (陸海空軍刑法) would come under the jurisdiction of civil courts, he said.

KMT caucus whip La Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said the party wanted to push the amendment through in the next extra session.

Ting said he has discussed his proposal with Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), who leads a Cabinet task force to oversee reviews of related issues, and Chou Chih-jen (周志仁), director of the defense ministry’s Department of Legal Affairs, who gave their support.

Meanwhile, the DPP caucus said it would propose amendments to severely limit the military’s judicial power by placing all military legal cases under the jurisdiction of civilian courts in peacetime.

“As the highest authority supervising military prosecutors and judges, the defense ministry is now playing the roles of both the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice, which is why human rights in the military have been an unresolved issue,” DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.

The DPP will seek to amend three laws — the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), the Code of Court Martial Procedure and the National Security Act (國家安全法) — so that only service members who violate the Armed Forces Criminal Act would be subject to a military tribunal, Ker said.

The present system is unconstitutional, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said, because, while Article 9 of the Republic of China Constitution stipulates that those who are not in active military service should not be subject to military trial, it does not mean that all active military personnel should be tried by a military tribunal.

“A better and more constitutional design should draw a line between wartime and peacetime as other countries do,” he said, adding that only four nations — Taiwan, China, South Korea and the US — now maintain a military court system.

The DPP caucus said it would demand that the defense minister report on the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) report on the forced demolition of houses in Dapu Borough (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南) and the excessive use of force by Taipei police and arrests of protesters this week.

The DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) have both opposed holding a second extra session — which is scheduled to last 11 days, — but acknowledged they have no real say in the matter because the KMT holds a legislative majority.

TSU caucus whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said his party supports the spirit of the DPP’s proposed amendment on the military’s judiciary, but it has some reservations.

“[The proposal] involves significant changes to the entire judicial system and should not be decided in such a short period of time,” Hsu said.