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International law: Taiwan changes its law relating to military punishment powers

Taiwan has revised its law governing the power of its military to punish its own workforce, reports the BBC.

Following countless cases reporting gross misconduct by the military towards their own staff, Taiwan has taken the monumental decision to remove their power.

The military will no longer be able to prosecute and determine their own penalties for their staff or carry out these punishments within their own detention centres.

With this change to the law, the civil courts of Taiwan have been overwhelmed with the inundation of more than 350 pressing cases of purported inhumane treatment and excessive punishment by military seniors to their own staff. Worryingly, these are simply the most urgent cases; it is far from the total number that will be filling the courts as a result of this legal amendment.

The changes to the law will see the closure of all military courts and jails by January next year, much to the relief of both staff and the public.

Credited with prompting this change were the public protests following the death of a soldier during punishment for a negligible offence. Hung Chung-chiu was only 24 years old when he died at the hands of his own employers. Hung was being punished for misconduct after bringing his mobile camera phone to his base.

The extent of Hung's punishments far exceeded the offence committed. The soldier was "held in solitary confinement...and was then subjected to arduous punishment exercises in the hot sun", reports the BBC. This lead to him developing heatstroke and suffering subsequent organ failure, which killed him. Around 18 officers have been charged as a result of Hung's death and the defence minister was encouraged to resign.

Outraged by his death, thousands of protestors took to the streets of Taiwan's capital to promote a change in the law. They have been gratified with this momentous change which continues the country's limitation on the previous ruling military power.