Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Qatar says officials behind airport strip searches could face charges

Government refers officials to public prosecutors after international outcry over treatment of female passengers

A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 aircraft on the tarmac Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital Doha. AFP
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 aircraft on the tarmac Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital Doha. AFP

Qatar said on Friday that officials responsible for the forced medical examinations of female travellers at Doha airport have been referred to prosecutors to face possible charges.

The move follows widespread condemnation of Qatar and its state airline, Qatar Airways, over the searches conducted on October 2 after a newborn baby was found abandoned in a toilet at Hamad International Airport.

The outcry was led by Australia, which demanded an explanation for the "grossly disturbing" treatment of 13 citizens who were told to disembark from a Sydney-bound Qatar Airways flight and subjected to invasive medical examinations without any explanation.

Five other foreign nationals, including a French citizen, were also subjected to examination in an attempt to identify the baby's mother.

“The subsequent procedures taken by the authorities at the airport, including examining a number of female passengers, revealed that standard procedures were violated," Qatar's Government Communications Office said on Friday. "Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office.”

Authorities at the airport conducted the medical examinations in an ambulance at the airport. The women returned from the ordeal shaken and crying, according to fellow passengers.

Qatar apologised in the wake of the outrage over the matter, saying that it “regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedom of any traveller” as a result of the “urgently-decided search”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was seeking guarantees from Doha that such searches are not conducted in future.

“As a father of daughters, I could only shudder at the thought that any woman, Australian or otherwise, would be subjected to that," he said

Updated: October 30, 2020 02:39 PM

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