Australian women to sue Qatar over forced invasive exams at Doha airport

(CNN) – A group of seven Australian women, some of whom were subjected to invasive medical examinations After authorities found an abandoned baby at Doha International Airport, they plan to sue the Qatari government, their lawyer confirmed Tuesday.
The women were told to disembark from their Qatar Airways plane and required to submit to inspections without their consent and without a clear explanation, while transiting Qatar on October 2, 2020.
the search was activated after airport authorities discovered a newborn baby wrapped in a plastic bag and found in or next to a trash can in a bathroom at Hamad International Airport, the government said at the time.

Following the discovery of the baby, more than 18 women from 10 different flights, including 13 Australians aboard a plane bound for Sydney, were involved in the incident.

The women were taken from the plane by Qatari armed authorities and subjected to physical examinations in ambulances on the airport runway, allegedly to determine whether they were the mother of the newborn baby.

“Two of the younger women underwent an incredibly invasive gynecological exam. All the exams were not consensual,” Damian Sturzaker, a lawyer representing women at Sydney-based Marque Lawyers, told CNN.

One woman was carrying her 5-month-old baby and “explained that she couldn’t be the mother of this found child, but they said they had to examine them and made her remove her underwear,” Sturzaker said.

The examinations caused outrage in Australia and around the world, and the actions were compared to sexual assault. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced the incident as “appalling” and “unacceptable”.

The Qatari government issued a statement on October 28 last year apologizing for “any distress or violation of the personal freedom of any traveler” as a result of the incident.

CNN reached out to the Qatari government for comment on the lawsuit, but did not receive a response to the after-hours request at press time. CNN has also contacted Qatar Airways for comment.

At the time, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani “expressed his deepest condolences for the women affected by the search at the airport and renewed the apology of the State of Qatar.”

Despite outrage over the case and promises of action by Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne, “nothing has been done,” attorney Sturzaker said.

Following the incident, a Qatari prosecutor said that an unspecified number of airport security personnel responsible for conducting the passenger exams. An officer received a suspended sentence, according a CNN affiliate 7 News.

But Sturzaker said the results of the investigation have not been released nor have any changes to the airport’s procedures been communicated.

The women, in their 30s and 50s, have also suffered ongoing mental health difficulties from the incident, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, fear of flying, and some have had to take time off work and seek psychological counseling, he said. Sturzaker. .

They want an apology from the Qatari government and have a meaningful dialogue with the Qatari authorities so that similar incidents do not happen again, Sturzaker said.

Sturzaker has written a letter to Qatar Airways, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority and the Qatari Embassy in Canberra, and included legal advice saying that if the incident happened in Australia, it would amount to assault, battery, or trespassing on the person. , and said that women are entitled to compensation.

The women are seeking damages for emotional damage, loss of income and medical treatment, he said, adding that a lawsuit will be filed in the coming weeks in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Sydney, “Sturzaker said.

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