2015年4月9日 星期四

Outcry over helicopter shows need for change

Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽

(Wu Ching-chin is an associate professor, chair of Aletheia University’s law department and director of Taiwan Forever Association)
(作者為真理大學法律系副教授兼系主任、永社理事)

Translated by Zane Kheir

TAIPEI TIMES / Editorials 2015.04.08
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2015/04/08/2003615402/1

When entertainer Janet Lee (李蒨蓉) posted a picture of herself on Facebook sitting in the military’s latest-model Apache helicopter, she caused a public outcry. However, Lee said the matter is not serious, while the military also seemed to view it as trivial, giving the officer involved in the incident only two major demerits.
However, is behavior like posting this kind of picture really so significant?

Both the Apache helicopter’s internal equipment and the servicing area are matters of the highest military confidentiality, according to Article 8 of the guidelines for determining category, scope and level of military and defense secrets (軍事機密與國防秘密種類範圍等級劃分準則) and Article 4 of the Vital Area Regulations (要塞堡壘地帶法).

If someone were to leak information to another party, Article 109 of the Criminal Code stipulates that this is a felony that can result in a prison sentence from one to seven years. Even if one is not at fault, according to Article 9 of the Vital Area Regulations, one could still face imprisonment of up to one year. Therefore, this incident — which involves a photograph of the nation’s most sophisticated and expensive helicopter and the facility where it is kept being published online — is a felony and a violation of the Criminal Code by leaking national security secrets, regardless of whether the motivation was to show off, entertain or even to appeal for peace over war.

With military corporal Hung Chung-chiu’s (洪仲丘) controversial death in 2013 causing such an uproar, it forced the legislature to amend the law in August that year so that the entire military justice system was repealed on Jan. 13 last year. However, this only resulted in the jurisdiction of military criminal cases being sent to regular courts, while the military still falls under a special category of criminal law, namely the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍刑法), which stipulates increased sentencing.

In the Apache helicopter case, visitors were allowed to enter highly classified military installations, which is not only a serious violation of the rules pertaining to military information security, but also a breach of Article 21 of the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces, which could result in the punishment being increased by 50 percent. The severe sentence for posting such material online shows that it is not a matter to be taken lightly.
Although the Ministry of National Defense is to punish personnel involved in this type of leak, the army only gave the officer primarily involved three demerits, which makes it clear that the army has trivialized a serious matter and covered up smaller ones.

In the Hung case, which involved him bringing a mobile phone with a camera onto a military base, the corporal was placed in solitary confinement and died after being forced to perform physical activities. This makes it clear that military punishment clearly lacks transparency, objectivity and can be easily used by superiors as a tool to purge low-level subordinates. It has also been shown that harsh penalties do not fall on high-ranking officials, and that there is an urgent need to review and reform the system.

A seemingly insignificant Facebook post has contravened national defense legislation and caused the public to wonder whether this is just the tip of the iceberg. If those involved are not held responsible for their actions and the most serious administrative and criminal investigation is not conducted, military discipline — which is already under criticism — will only become more lax.