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April 28, 2017

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A follow-up on promised reforms to military justice system (Part II)

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Continued from yesterday's Accountability Corner.

Nine months after the tragic death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and President Ma Ying-jeou's pledge to conduct reforms, let us take a moment to review the latest developments on the proposed reforms.

The government did keep its word with the speedy passage of amendments to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法), which transferred the jurisdiction of all military criminal cases to the civilian judicial system during peacetime.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) also conducted a review of its disciplinary confinement system and launched reforms to attend to the human rights of military personnel during confinement.

The series of reforms includes renovating military confinement centers around the country to provide a more comfortable and humane environment for those thrown into the brig.

The MND also made adjustments to training and exercise regimens during confinement to make, quoting MND official's words, "disciplinary confinement not as a form of punishment but as an opportunity to teach violators a lesson."

Meanwhile, the Executive Yuan officially launched a special commission under the Cabinet to review possible miscarriages of justice under military courts over the past 20 years.

Reforms Bring New Problem

The series of reforms the government launched over the past few months seem to suffice to better safeguard the human rights of military personnel.

However, as pointed out by some critics, such broad reforms conducted on short notice and lacking consideration and preparation have led to other problems in the long term.

First of all, members of local legal community have raised concerns over whether the review commission will meet its founding goals, as there is no legal basis to give it the authority to ask the prosecutor-general to file for extraordinary appeals even if they find irregularities in old cases.

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