Taiwan's only military prison will be relegated to the history books as a result of the revised Code of Court Martial Procedure, which took effect on Thursday. The amended law, which passed the Legislative Yuan Aug. 6 and was promulgated by the Presidential Office Aug. 13, requires the civilian justice system to handle cases involving military servicemen during peacetime. On Thursday, 243 inmates were transferred from the Tainan Military Prison to 11 civilian prisons in Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Yilan, Tainan, Yunlin, Chiayi and Pingtung. The military prison will be shut down for good in another five months, when the second phase of the court martial overhaul kicks in and the remaining 53 prisoners are relocated to civilian facilities. That same day, 178 cases pending investigation or rulings in military courts were transferred to the authority of 24 separate civilian courts for further probes and trials. The case that has received the most public attention is that of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu's death under suspicious circumstances. Hung, a 24-year-old graduate of National Cheng Kung University, died July 4 of multiple organ failure caused by heatstroke after completing a series of strenuous exercises that were part of his punishment in military confinement. Several irregularities were later discovered, notably that confinement was not a suitable punishment for his offense -- bringing a camera-equipped cell phone onto a military base. Hung's death and the military's subsequent lack of transparency or urgency in dealing with it sparked a public outcry, resulting in two massive protests held in Taipei to demand better human rights protection in the military and an overhaul of the court-martial system. Eighteen officers have been indicted by military prosecutors on charges of infringing upon individual freedom and collective abuse of a subordinate resulting in death. None of them are being detained, with four having been released on bail.
The following are excerpts from a special report in the Thursday edition of the United Evening News: The military court transferred the Hung case the Taoyuan District Court Thursday. The district court immediately formed a military tribunal, assigning three judges by lot drawing. Two of the judges are women, including designated judge Ting Yu-yin. "The court will definitely handle the case in line with the principles of fairness, openness, justice and transparency," said Wu Wei-ping, the court's spokesman. As hearings will be held in open court, Wu said, members of the public can observe trials. Observer cards will be issued for those interested in the case, he said. Hung Tzu-yung, the older sister of the deceased, said she looks forward to seeing the Taoyuan court refer the case to the Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office for renewed investigations. "Military prosecutors failed to carefully and extensively investigate the case and the indictment provides little clues and evidence," Hung said. "I believe it would be very difficult for civilian judges to try the case based on the indictment presented by military prosecutors," Hung said. She said further investigations are needed in regard to why Hung Chung-chiu was put into a confinement cell of the 269 Army Brigade in the first place. Hung Chung-chiu was serving his mandatory one-year military service with the 542 Brigade. "I wish to know the connection between the two brigades," Hung Tzu-yung said. If the Taoyuan Prosecutors Office is allowed to reopen an investigation, it would help restore public trust in Taiwan's justice system, she said. (Aug. 15, 2013). (By Sofia Wu)