Anti-war protestors to sue Defence Force for assault

29 September 2015
Three anti-war protestors who say they were assaulted by Australian Defence Force personnel while protesting on Victoria’s Swan Island last October have today taken the first step in legal action over the alleged attack.

Sam Quinlan, Greg Rolles and David Sprigg swam to the Swan Island military base from Queenscliff on October 2, 2014 to stage a peaceful protest against Australia’s involvement in foreign wars such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Soon after arriving on the island, the protestors – who were part of a group of peace activists known as the Swan Island Peace Convergence – were confronted by a number of unidentified officers.
Despite stating they were non-violent protestors, the men were thrown to the ground and dragged, had bags put over their heads and were stripped naked. One was threatened with rape and another with drowning.
The protestors, represented pro-bono by social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn, has today filed proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court to force the Australian Defence Force and the Commonwealth to provide the names of the officers involved in the incident.
The court action comes after the Defence Force has refused repeated requests for access to the information
The protestor’s lawyer, Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese, said once the names of the individuals involved were provided, the protestors intended to sue the officers for assault and battery.
“These men are peaceful protestors who were prepared to accept the lawful consequences of their actions, but they did not deserve this violent assault on their dignity,” Mr Varghese said.
“The protestors experienced brutal, degrading and humiliating treatment at the hands of Defence Force personnel. This kind of behaviour cannot go unanswered.”
Sam Quinlan said the protestors had been shocked by the actions of the military officers.  “It was very clear that we were there as non-violent peace activists. The officers’ response to our peaceful protest was excessively violent and completely unwarranted.”
Greg Rolles said the protestors had decided to take legal action to make sure the officers involved were held to account for their behaviour. “If this is how these officers treat Australian citizens on Australian soil, what’s happening to people in other parts of the world that we don’t know about?”

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