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Qatar Airways Escapes Lawsuit Over Strip-searches of Women at Doha Airport

Airline could not be held liable under the Montreal Convention, says Federal Court of Australia

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on April 11, 2024, 15:01:31

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qatar airways, lawsuit, australia, doha airport

Qatar Airways has evaded a lawsuit in Australia brought by five women who underwent strip-searches and invasive examinations at Doha airport.

According to BBC, the incident occurred after a baby was discovered abandoned in an airport bin in 2020, prompting outrage and condemnation from various nations.

The women sought damages for what they alleged was "unlawful physical contact" and false imprisonment resulting in mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, their claim was dismissed by Justice John Halley of the Federal Court of Australia on the basis that Qatar Airways could not be held liable under the Montreal Convention, a treaty governing airline liability for passenger injury or death.

Justice Halley also ruled that the airline's staff had no influence over the actions of Qatari police or the examining nurses, deeming the proposition otherwise as "implausible." The lawsuit was also struck down against Qatar's aviation regulator due to immunity from foreign prosecution.

Nonetheless, the women are permitted to pursue their claim against Matar, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways responsible for operating Hamad International Airport.

They argue that Matar employees failed in their duty of care by not preventing the invasive examinations.

The affected women have expressed that they did not consent to the examinations and were not informed of the reasons behind them.

One of them likened the experience to feeling "raped," while another believed she was being kidnapped.

Qatari officials responded to the incident by assuring that the abandoned baby was being cared for and condemned the treatment of the female passengers as not reflective of Qatar's laws or values.

Despite a criminal prosecution in Qatar resulting in a suspended jail term for an airport official, the women proceeded with the lawsuit due to perceived inaction from Doha.

Their goal, as articulated by one of the women, is to seek a formal apology from Qatar and ensure changes in airport procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future, aiming to spare other women from such "demoralising, horrendous treatment."

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