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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Qatar, Australia join efforts to monitor HIA strip search case

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Ministers of both countries held a phone call to discuss an incident that has caused local and global outrage.

Qatari authorities and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade agreed to continue to monitor the Hamad International Airport (HIA) case closely to prioritise the issue and exchange updates, Doha’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Saturday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Senator Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women of the Commonwealth of Australia, held a phone call on Friday to discuss the HIA incident.

Read also: The passengers were violated and it’s time for Qatar to take women’s rights seriously

In the phone call, Al Thani reiterated Doha’s condemnation of the issue while apologising for the violation of the women passengers’ rights, adding that the incident was a violation of Qatar’s laws and values, and that the officials involved have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office.

Furthermore, Payne expressed her confidence in holding the officials involved accountable in a fair, just and proportionate manner by Qatari authorities.

The phone call came after Qatar confirmed it has started proceedings to prosecute a number of people involved in the invasive physical examination of women passengers.

Qatar apologises

Qatar’s Government Communications Office (GCO) released a statement on Friday, condemning the violation of the women’s rights, who were on the flight from Doha to Australia on October 2.

“The preliminary investigation into the attempted murder of a newborn baby found in a very serious condition at Hamad International Airport (HIA), and the subsequent procedures taken by the authorities at the airport, including examining a number of female passengers, revealed that standard procedures were violated,” the GCO statement said.

The GCO statement added that those “responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office”.

The State of Qatar apologised for what some female travellers went through as a result of the measures, it concluded, noting the incident was the first of its kind and is “wholly inconsistent with Qatar’s culture and values.”

The incident triggered an online backlash after the news broke on Australian television on Sunday, with 7News Agency describing it as a “horrific violation” of women’s rights.

“It is distressing and disturbing and a gross violation of these women’s human rights,” Samantha Klintworth, Director of Amnesty International Australia, told 7News. “There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation and all of those involved need to be held to account.”

On Wednesday, Doha launched an immediate inquiry into the case, which also saw an abandoned baby found in one of the toilets at Qatar’s main airport.

Read also: EXCLUSIVE: CCTV footage shows moment abandoned baby discovered at airport

A source has confirmed that the mother, whose identity is yet to be known, had delivered the baby on her own in the toilets at Doha’s main airport. She then put the live baby girl in a bag and dumped her in a bin before proceeding to cover her with tissues in an attempt to conceal the newborn.

Earlier this week, Doha News obtained exclusive CCTV footage which showed the moments after the abandoned baby was found dumped in a trash can in what appears to have been an attempted murder.

The baby girl is now safe and in the care of social workers in Qatar as authorities search for the mother.


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