The Qatar government said Friday that it had referred several people to prosecution for invasive medical examinations of women aboard 10 aircraft in Doha after an investigation into the circumstances earlier this month.
In one harrowing episode on October 2, women on flights at Hamad International Airport near Doha, the country’s capital, were searched and some were examined to see if they had recently given birth after finding an abandoned newborn in one had been airport bathroom.
The situation sparked outrage and disbelief, first in Australia – where the news originally came out because one of the flights involved was going to Sydney – and then internationally, with rights groups citing the airport officials’ actions as a violation of fundamental rights amounting to a violation could sexual assault.
A statement by the government of Qatar on Friday said that “the procedures taken by the authorities at the airport, including the investigation of a number of female passengers, have shown that standard procedures have been violated”.
“Those responsible for these violations and illegal acts have been referred to the prosecutor,” the statement added, without specifying how many were charged or what role they had played.
The government said officials were working to “ensure future violations are avoided” and apologized for “what some female travelers went through as a result of the action”.
“What happened is in complete contradiction to Qatar’s culture and values,” the statement said.
The comments are a departure from a government reaction earlier this week that expressed regret over the trials but defended the actions of officials who allegedly responded to a “egregious and life-threatening violation of the law” and relied on the forsaken Newborns related to a girl found alive among trash in a bathroom.
Australian news outlets reported this week that an international investigation was ongoing. And the Australian government said Monday it was demanding responses from Qatar Airways following “the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” which it deemed “offensive, grossly inappropriate and beyond the circumstances under which they were subjected Women could give free and informed consent. “
At least one of the flights was held for hours as women were removed from the plane, passengers said, and some were taken to parked ambulances.
An Australian nurse told the New York Times that some had been asked to take off their underwear and undergo an invasive exam to see if they had recently given birth.