Each litigant could receive $2 million if the case involving the five Australian women goes to trial, bringing the total payout to $10 million.
Qatar is reportedly attempting to claim sovereign immunity in the $10 million lawsuit brought forth by a group of Australian women who were forcibly strip searched and examined at a Doha airport.
The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) gave notice it would be requesting to have the claim set aside under sovereign immunity at a pre-trial hearing in the Federal Court last Friday, according to The Australian Financial Review.
It is thought to be the first instance in which the Qatari government, which owns both the QCAA and Qatar Airways, has employed the defence in a commercial dispute in Australia.
According to Sky News Australia, Qatar Airways has allegedly indicated that it will submit a similar application.
‘Sovereign immunity’, a principle of international law, states that a national government cannot be sued or subject to criminal prosecution without its permission.
The incident occurred when a newborn baby girl was found abandoned in a restroom at a HIA terminal in 2020. Upon discovery of the baby, a group of Australian women among others were taken off a Qatar Airways flight as security scrambled to find the mother.
During the frantic search for the mother, the women say they were intimately searched without justification or consent.
Five of the incident’s 18 Australian participants are suing the Qatari government for assault and battery.
Leading business firm Gilbert + Tobin confirmed to the AFR on Tuesday that it had been hired to represent the QCAA, but it chose to withhold further comment.
On May 8, the case will be brought back before the judge, giving the women time to respond to the immunity defence.
Each litigant could receive $2 million if the case involving the five women goes to trial, bringing the total payout to $10 million.
The women have also filed a complaint against Qatar Airways for violating their human rights with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Government Communications Office (GCO) told Doha News that they currently do not have a comment on the matter, while Qatar Airways declined to comment.
In 2021, Doha News learned that one the security official responsible for ordering the invasive searches was charged a hefty fine and given a six-month prison sentence which he then appealed, but was upheld by the Qatari courts.
Investigations at the time also found that the mother proceeded to board a flight after discarding the baby. Sources had told Doha News last year that the baby was taken to Qatar’s Orphans Care Center (Dreama), where authorities have ensured she is taken care of.