DOHA (Al Jazeera) – Qatar has referred several officials who were behind the forced and invasive physical examinations of female passengers at Hamad International Airport to prosecutors, saying "standard procedures were violated”, according to a government statement.
The incident on October 2 saw airport staff take women off several planes to examine them to check whether they were the mother of an abandoned baby.
The newborn, a girl, was found in a plastic bag in a bin at a restroom in one of the airport’s terminals.
"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,” a statement by the Government Communications Office (GCO) said.
"Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office,” the statement added.
The GCO said investigators were "reviewing and identifying any potential gaps in the procedures and protocols followed at Hamad International Airport, in order to address them and ensure that any violations are avoided in the future”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani expressed Qatar’s "sincerest apology for what some female travelers went through as a result of the measures”.
The GCO statement added: "This incident is the first of its kind at HIA, which has served tens of millions of passengers without any issues like this before. What took place is wholly inconsistent with Qatar’s culture and values. Qatar is fully committed to the safety and security of all travelers arriving to or transiting through HIA.”
HIA launched an appeal on Sunday for the child’s mother to come forward, saying the baby remains unidentified but is "safe under the professional care of medical and social workers”.
Australia’s foreign minister said female passengers on 10 flights departing from Doha were forced to endure the examinations, expanding the number of women first thought affected.
Marise Payne, at a hearing in Australia’s Senate on Wednesday, described the acts of the airport’s staff as "grossly disturbing” and "offensive”.