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Victims of Forced Vaginal Exams at Doha Airport Have Been Denied the Right to Sue Qatar Airways By Australian Judge

Victims of Forced Vaginal Exams at Doha Airport Have Been Denied the Right to Sue Qatar Airways By Australian Judge

a group of airplanes parked on a runway

An Australian court has told a group of women who were forced off a Sydney-bound plane at Doha International Airport in October 2020 and subjected to highly-invasive vaginal exams that they cannot sue state-owned Qatar Airways for the mistreatment they experienced at the hands of Qatari authorities.

Five of the thirteen Australian victims on board the 2nd October 2020 flight filed a lawsuit against Qatar Airways, as well as the Qatari Civil Aviation Authority and the airport authority in 2021, accusing them of assault, battery and deprivation of liberty.

The women were ordered off the plane as it was preparing for departure after police discovered a newborn baby abandoned in a trash can in an airport restroom. The authorities halted all flights from leaving, and after sitting on the ground for four hours, ‘black-clad’ security personnel removed all the women of child-bearing age from the aircraft.

One by one, the women were led into an ambulance on the tarmac, where they were forced to strip while a nurse performed an invasive gynaecological examination to try to determine whether they had recently given birth.

Although the women on Flight QR902 to Sydney have received the most attention from this alarming incident, Human Rights Watch believes women from ten different flights were also subjected to forced vaginal exams as police tried to track down the mother.

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, eventually apologised for what had happened to the women and vowed legal action against those responsible, although Qatar Airways has always maintained that it can’t be held legally accountable.

On Wednesday, an Australian Federal Court backed Qatar Airways saying the legal case brought by the victims “did not meet international airline liability protocols.”

In the same judgement, the case against Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority has also been dismissed, but the women will be allowed to pursue a claim against Qatar Company for Airports Operation and Management (MATAR).

At the time of the incident, Badr Mohammed Al Meer was the chief executive of Hamad International Airport, which included MATAR. Last November, Al Meer was promoted to become the CEO of Qatar Airways after veteran executive Akbar Al Baker suddenly left the airline in mysterious circumstances.

The victim’s lawyer says the women are considering an appeal, and the case is due back in court early next month.

Australian Transport Minister Catherine King says the forced vaginal exams was behind her decision not to give Qatar Airways additional landing rights to fly to some of Australia’s biggest airports.

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