Mother speaks out on old military abuse case

SUICIDE::The mother of a conscript who died in 2008 said the family is still trying to find out what happened. A DPP legislator said the military tries to cover up abuse

By Chris Wang, Chen Yan-ting and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - Page 3

The recent focus on human rights abuses in the military has prompted the re-emergence of forgotten cases such as that of army corporal Hung Wen-pu (洪文璞), who died after jumping off a building at the Army’s Aviation and Special Forces Command base in September 2008.

His family have accused the military of hiding the truth of the soldier’s death from them.

Hung’s mother, Lin Chi-lien (林崎蓮), told a news conference organized by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) that the military still has not told the family the full story of her son’s death.

The family claims that Hung, who was conscripted in March 2008, suffered verbal and physical abuse, and was subjected to inhumane training sessions by his superiors before committing suicide.

Although one officer involved in the case was given a one-year sentence for abusing his subordinates, the military has refused to accept responsibility for Hung’s death and its inappropriate treatment of him, Lin said.

The military has refused to acknowledge that Hung suffered from an anxiety disorder despite the family providing medical records showing he did, Lin said.

She alleged the military had used fraudulent documents to back its denial that Hung was treated at a military medical station.

Because the army has denied any systemic wrongdoing, the family’s appeal to receive state compensation for Hung’s death was rejected, Lin said.

The Taoyuan District Court initially ruled in 2011 in Lin’s favor in her civil lawsuit against the Army General Headquarters, ordering it to pay her about NT$1.97 million (US$65,800 at current exchange rates) in compensation, but the Taiwan High Court overthrew the ruling last year on the grounds that “her son’s suicide resulted from his personality traits and the military should not be held accountable for his actions.”

The case is currently before the Supreme Court.

Yu said the military tended to rush to hand out punishment to military personnel before actually discovering the truth in abuse cases.

“Rather than endeavoring to provide justice for victims of bullying, military prosecutors have helped perpetrators destroy evidence and escape punishment for their crimes,” Yu said.

Yu urged the government to let civil judicial authorities intervene in investigations into such tragedies and allow civilian courts to handle similar cases.

Major General Huang Kuo-ming (黃國明) of the Army Command Headquarters said the command was sorry about Hung’s death and that it had issued reprimands in connection with the case.

“The military punished 28 officers involved in Hung Wen-pu’s case, including his company commander and his main counselor. It also prosecuted six officers, one of whom was sentenced to prison,” Huang said.

The general said the military had set up a blog as a platform for soldiers who want to anonymously report incidents of abuse and bullying and that the site has helped address more than 3,000 complaints.

Colonel Yi Li-yen (易立言) of the command’s Department of Legal Affairs said the military was unable to provide Hung’s family with the investigation report and Hung’s medical records unless both sides were involved in litigation.

“It is shocking to see that only one officer has been held accountable for what appears to be the systematic verbal and physical abuse of a soldier,” Yu Mei-nu said.