Court allows case over forced gynecological exams at Qatar airport to go ahead against operator

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An Australian court has rejected a case brought by five women seeking compensation from Qatar Airways over invasive gynecological examinations conducted on passengers at Doha’s airport in 2020, but their case against the airport’s operator is going ahead.

The five, whose identities have been concealed by the courts, were among hundreds of women forcibly removed from airliners in Doha on Oct. 2, 2020, as officials searched for the mother of a newborn baby found dumped in a terminal trash can.

Thirteen women were removed from a flight to Sydney. Many said they were forced to undergo non-consensual gynecological or intimate physical examinations.

Federal Court Justice John Halley on Wednesday ruled the women’s argument against state-owned Qatar Airways did not meet international airline liability protocols.

“My conclusion that the exclusivity principle precludes the applicants from pursuing any claim for damages against Qatar Airways is a complete answer to the claims that the applicants seek to bring against Qatar Airways,” Halley said.

The judge also said the women’s case against the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority could not go ahead. However, the case against the Qatar Company for Airports Operation and Management (MATAR), the airport’s operator, could continue. MATAR is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qatar Airways.

The women’s lawyer, Damian Sturzaker, said in a statement his clients were considering an appeal.

“We note however that the claims against the airport operator, MATAR remain on foot. Our clients’ resolve to continue to agitate their claims remains undiminished,” Sturzaker said. The case returns to court on May 10.

Australian Transport Minister Catherine King did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday on the court ruling.

She revealed last year that the examinations of passengers were part of the reason she decided in June to refuse to allow Qatar Airways to increase its services to Australia.

Qatar Airways Senior Vice President Matt Raos told an Australian Senate inquiry in September that such examinations of passengers would never be repeated.

“We’ve had nothing like it previously in our history and we’re completely committed to ensuring nothing like this ever happens again,” Raos told the committee.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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