On Sunday, November 19th, a worker by the name of Drasko Boljevic was unlawfully assaulted and abducted by members of the Victoria Police operating as a plainclothes snatch squad. According to the one press report on the incident (Dan Oakes, ‘Student held on damage and stealing charges’, The Age, November 20, 2006):
Food worker Drasko Boljevic, who was not involved in the protests, said he was “abducted” and released by plain clothes police about… two hours later.
Mr Boljevic said he was grabbed in a convenience store near RMIT University and thrown into a white van by men who swore at him and failed to identify themselves.
He said he was tied up and one of them sat on his head as he was driven around the city.
After being taken from the van near Flinders Street station, he was forced to kneel and was told he had been arrested.
“I was just frightened, I wanted to know what was going on. Who are these people?”
“Later, detectives came, handcuffed me and took me to the (police) station, but nobody explained anything before I got there.” Mr Boljevic said he was in Malmsbury, about 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, on Saturday during the protest. He said money he was carrying had gone missing and that police cut open his bag.
“I just think it’s really bad what’s been done to me, because I just feel traumatised. I thought I was going to die because you don’t know who these people are,” he said.
Police eventually released Mr Boljevic, but said they were studying further photographs of the protest.
Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed that a man had been mistakenly arrested.
“We certainly had resources out there looking for particular individuals,” she said.
“We have taken individuals into custody today and in one case the person was released because he wasn’t the person we thought he was.”
On the Leftwrites site, Jill Sparrow has uploaded an email account of the incident written by Eleonor Palacio, Boljevic’s partner:
[Sometime] between 12 midday and 12.15pm, Sunday [19th] November 2006, Drasko Boljevic, my partner, was paying for a drink at Foodworks minimart, 408 Swanston Street, in front of RMIT, whilst his friend Oakis was inside the store. Drasko was abducted by three bouncer-looking men dressed in casual clothes and violently taken into an unidentifiable white van, where another 5 of them help[ed] hold… Drasko down and handcuffed him with special plastic cuffs. [Oakis] heard some screams and went outside to see Drasko’s feet being carried into the unidentifiable van. He asked the abductors if they were policemen and they [replied] ‘Get the fuck out of here, get the fuck out of this city.’
The men did not identify themselves or inform… Drasko why he was being abducted. He was told to ‘Shut the fuck up’… that he was a ‘Fucking bastard’ and [that] they [would] ‘Bash him up and smash his face’, whilst violently holding his legs [behind] his back and pushing his head against the floor of the van and sitting on it. They drove around the city for about 10 minutes continuously terrorising him with [these] type[s] of comments and physical force. They pulled his pants down, searched him and cut his backpack [off] his back. ‘I thought I was going to die, I could hardly breathe and I didn’t know who these people were’, Drasko said later.
They [stopped] at an [alleyway] behind Flinders St Station and made him lie on the floor, with his pants still down, and [instructed him to] look down, still shouting at him to ‘Shut the fuck up’.
Some police detectives in casual clothes [then] arrived and identified themselves. It was not until then, about 25 minutes after his abduction, that he was informed [that] he was [being] arrested[:] no reasons for the arrest were given. They took some photos of his face, front and profile with a mobile. Then, they took him into an unidentified car and he was taken to the 412 St Kilda Rd Police Station.
When at the police station, they asked him if he would behave violently [and] bite policemen or if he would cooperate, and took his handcuffs off. He started being interrogated and for the first time since the abduction he was told he was arrested for assaulting a policewoman at the G20 protest on Saturday.
Drasko was not in Melbourne on Saturday, he was on his way to Malmsbury, 1 hour away from Melbourne, [where] he played the part of an ‘emu’ in a cabaret show at the Town Hall. Police said later that he was arrested ‘on the basis of his physical similarity with a suspect’.
At this point, about 2.00[pm,] it was apparent that they [had] got the wrong person, and the constable interrogating him told him he was about to be released, and that ‘If this was Croatia he wouldn’t be so lucky’. He was finally released at 2.35pm.
After getting home in a state of shock and fear, Drasko realised he had a [bruise above his] right eyebrow (which is likely to become a black eye) and discomfort of the neck as immediate physical consequences of the violent way he was dealt with in the van.
Drasko contacted the [Victoria Police – Ethical Standards Department], under the supervision of Senior Constable Neil Curtis (who dealt with the case in the last instance) to inform [him] of his physical state. They told him that ‘He should understand that in these circumstances they (the abductors) can’t take any risks’ and that ‘They need to apply considerable force when dealing with violent suspects’.
Victoria Police – Ethical Standards Department
The Victoria Police Ethical Standards Department (Police Conduct Unit, Compliments and Complaints) is responsible for enhancing and further promoting a culture of high ethical standards throughout Victoria Police through the effective prevention, deterrence and investigation of unethical behaviour, thereby ensuring a continued respect and confidence of the community.
Address: Police Conduct Unit, Ethical Standards Department, Level 2, Flinders Tower, 637 Flinders Street, Melbourne VIC 3005
Phone: 1300 363 101 (Monday-Friday 8am-4pm, answering machine available for leaving a message)
Fax: (03) 9247 3498
Email: [email protected]
Office of Police Integrity (OPI)
OPI is an independent body that ensures the highest ethical and professional standards in the police force. OPI investigates police conduct, police corruption and police policies and procedures. They aim to improve police service, management, integrity and morale.
Address: Level 3, 459 Collins Street (South Tower), Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 8635 6188, 1800 806 314 (non-metropolitan callers only)
Fax: (03) 86356185
Email: [email protected]
Dear friends, state terrorism exist[s] in Australia. We can say that this was a ‘bad mistake’ or that this ‘mistake’ can happen to any of us any day. This task force operation replicates… tactics used [during The Dirty War] in Argentina or in war time in Croatia, just to name a few.
What kind of liberties do we have as individuals? Is this a democracy gone with the wind? We should have the right to peacefully protest, if we believe it a way to demonstrate a view [about a particular] state of affairs. But above all, we shouldn’t be terrorised by a policy of ‘tough hunt’[?]. Protesters or not, we are all people and I would like to believe that this country [‘state authorities’?] can still [display] some [respect] towards its citizens and residents.
With love, thank you for your support…