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Military set to reform disciplinary confinement

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday announced that it will soon scrap the physical training portion of disciplinary confinement for military personnel as part of a reform launched following the death of an Army corporal last July.

Chang Hsi-chih (張熙志), a human resources official at the MND, reported at a news briefing yesterday that the ministry decided to scrap the physical training during disciplinary sessions for service people in the wake of months of discussion.

Previously, all military personnel sent for disciplinary confinement at military confinement centers were required to undergo daily physical training sessions during their confinement.

In the future, however, they won't need to undergo these sessions, and instead they will attend lectures on obeying military discipline and they will also receive counseling services.

“We see disciplinary confinement not as a form of punishment but as an opportunity to teach violators a lesson,” Chang said.

To attend to the human rights of military personnel during confinement, the MND also refurnished military confinement centers around the country to provide a more comfortable and humane environment for those thrown into the brig.

Also, violators who are ordered to spend time in disciplinary confinement will be given an opportunity to appeal their case before and during their confinement, as a further move to protect their rights, Chang noted.

He added that the MND has held four review meetings on changing the existing disciplinary system and will soon present the proposal to the Executive Yuan for approval before the new system is enacted.

The change was made amid public calls for comprehensive military judicial reform in the wake of the controversial death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) in July, 2013.

Hung, 24, was thrown into the brig on June 28, 2013 and was forced to perform grueling exercises in hot weather before he collapsed on July 3. He died a day later of multiple organ failure caused by heatstroke.

The MND's probes later revealed administrative errors in the Army's processing of Hung's confinement.

The incident has drawn public outrage over the military's poor handling of the case, forcing the military to apologize and promise to launch reforms to improve human rights in the military.

Court Martial Reform

As part of the reform, the Legislative Yuan last August passed a court-martial law amendment making civilian prosecutors responsible for cases involving military servicemen.

The amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) subjects military servicemen to prosecution and trial in civilian courts for any offense committed during peacetime.

The overhaul is being implemented in two phases. After the amendments were promulgated on Aug. 15, 2013, military cases involving the abuse of subordinates, homicide, sexual assault, robbery or narcotics were transferred to civilian prosecutors and courts. Other cases will be handed over to civilian prosecutors and courts after the Jan. 13, 2014, the MND said.

According to the MND, 160 cases involving military personnel currently awaiting trial by military courts will be handed to civilian courts after Jan. 13.

Another 280 cases currently under probe by military prosecutors will be transferred to civilian prosecutors, while another 70 military personnel currently jailed in military prisons will be sent to civilian prisons to continue their jail terms after Jan. 13.

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