Taiwanese soldier convicted of sexual misconduct walks free

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The military yesterday admitted that a serviceman walked away without being punished though he had been found guilty of sexually harassing a fellow soldier.

A panel of military inspectors ruled that the serviceman should be punished with 20 days in solitary confinement in December last year, but the punishment was never carried out, the Defence Ministry said.

The serviceman completed his conscription term and left the military base where he had been serving in February, it added.

The ministry blamed the failure on faulty coordination between different military units who had problems working out where the serviceman should be confined.

Punishing servicemen in solitary confinement has been a sensitive issue since the death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu last year in a brig. His death, resulting from alleged torture by prison guards, sparked massive protest by the general public calling for reform to the military's disciplinary system.

The military court system has been abandoned since then. And according to Defence Ministry spokesman Lo Shao-ho, improvements have been made to all confinement facilities since November 2013.

But the Central News Agency said no serviceman has been locked up in these improved facilities - now called "Rooms of Remorse" - since Hung's death. Observers said the military seems to be reluctant to jail its misbehaving servicemen.

Lo said personnel found at fault for failing to arrange confinement for the serviceman in the sexual harassment case have been punished with censures or warned.

Lo said the Defence Ministry has been emphasizing to all military units that serious cases of misconduct must still be punished with confinement to "Rooms of Remorse" in order to maintain discipline among the troops.

Authorities at the military arsenal in Taichung opened a probe into the sexual harassment case in December 2013 after receiving a complaint. After the serviceman - a private - was found guilty and given a 20-day confinement as punishment, the authorities started looking for a military facility where he could be locked up.

Currently the military runs nine confinement facilities, but the one in Taichung does not accept privates, according to the CNA.

The arsenal then had to request support from other brigs in other parts of Taiwan, and before any arrangement was confirmed, the private left the military on Feb. 20.

Lo said there are different forms of punishment in the military apart from solitary confinement. Misbehaved servicemen could also be demoted, censured or grounded.