A total of 259 military prisoners and detainees were sent from a military prison in Tainan to 11 civilian prisons across the country yesterday as hundreds of military criminal cases were transferred to civilian courts, marking the end of the military judiciary era.
The unprecedented transfer was carried out after an amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) was passed by the legislature last week and promulgated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Tuesday, which transferred the jurisdiction of military criminal cases from the military to the civilian courts beginning yesterday.
Under the escort of military and local police, the transfer began at dawn yesterday and was completed by noon, with inmates transported by buses from Greater Tainan’s Lioujia District (六甲) to various prisons, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The ministry said that except for 11 inmates who were on medical parole or currently under investigation at other facilities, 243 of the 254 prisoners in Tainan military prison, the last military prison in operation, were transferred successfully, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tung (陳明堂) said, adding that 16 detainees in military detention centers were sent to civilian facilities as well.
The transfer drew attention because of several convicted high-ranking military officers, including former navy captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆), who was jailed in connection with the Lafayette frigate kickback scandal in the 1990s, and former army general Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲), who was convicted for spying for China.
A total of 177 cases which were still being investigated by the military judiciary were also transferred to various civilian courts, including the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘).
The Hung case was transferred from the Military High Court to the Taoyuan District Court, the justice ministry said in a press release.
Ting Yu-yin (丁俞尹) was assigned as designated judge in charge of the case, with Hung Chi-hsiung (洪吉雄) the presiding judge and Hsu Chin-hua (許菁樺) the accompanying judge, the ministry said.
Separately yesterday, while meeting with the press during his diplomatic visit to Paraguay, the president said that transferring military inmates to civilian prisons is part of the government’s efforts to facilitate military reform, with more issues to be discussed in the future.
Further measures will be implemented following the amendments to the Code of Court Martial Procedure, he added.
After he returns from the trip, the Ministry of National Defense and the MOJ will issue further reports, including whether a special military court should be established to handle crimes committed by military personnel in wartime, Ma said.
When asked whether the military’s morale had been affected by mounting criticism in the wake of Hung’s death, Ma said he had instructed army officials to boost the confidence of their troops and maintain their dignity.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih