Representative image. Photograph:( AFP )
Women on 10 Qatar Airways flights out of Doha were subject to the examinations as authorities searched for the mother of a newborn baby found abandoned in an airport bathroom
Qatar said on Friday that those responsible for invasive gynecological searches of passengers at Doha airport had been referred for prosecution over the "violations" following widespread outrage.
Women on 10 Qatar Airways flights out of Doha were subject to the examinations as authorities searched for the mother of a newborn baby found abandoned in an airport bathroom on October 2.
The statement comes as the Australian government expressed outrage and union workers threatened not to service Qatar Airways aircraft in Sydney over the incident.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said 13 of its citizens had to endure the "appalling" examinations.
Earlier, Frances Adamson, head of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said there was "distress, abhorrence and deep questioning of how this can have happened".
Australia also represents a crucial route for Qatar Airways, the state-owned long-haul carrier based at Hamad International Airport in Doha.
In a statement, Qatar's Government Communication Office described the abandoning of the baby as the ''attempted murder'' of the child.
''The subsequent procedures were taken by the authorities at the airport, including examining a number of female passengers, revealed that standard procedures were violated," the statement said. "Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office.''
"The Prime Minister and Minister of Interior expressed the Government of the State of Qatar's sincerest apology for what some female travelers went through as a result of the measures."
The incident has caused diplomatic tensions with three friendly nations, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand, which intensified when authorities initially declined to apologise, leading to an online backlash against the airline, one of the wealthy Gulf nation's prestige projects.
New Zealand was the latest to raise concerns, saying late Thursday that one of its citizens was among the women subjected to the invasive examinations.
"We were extremely concerned to learn... that a New Zealand national was involved in the appalling incident involving female passengers on several Qatar Airways flights," its foreign ministry said in a statement.
It labelled the action "completely unacceptable".
The incident only came to light this week after affected Australian passengers spoke out.
Qatar is an ultra-conservative Muslim monarchy, where sex and childbirth outside of marriage are punishable by jail.
Ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it has struggled to reassure critics that its promises on women's rights, labour relations and democracy are credible.
Facing potentially devastating commercial and reputational damage, Qatar has repeatedly vowed to guarantee the future "safety and security" of passengers.
Australia's criticism of Qatar had grown increasingly strident in the absence of an unequivocal apology from Doha in the days after the scandal emerged.
Qatar said on Friday that taskforces were looking at "potential gaps in the procedures and protocols" at the airport.
"This incident is the first of its kind at Hamad International Airport, which has served tens of millions of passengers without any issues like this before," the Qatari statement said.
"What took place is wholly inconsistent with Qatar's culture and values."
Qatar's assistant foreign minister Lolwah al-Khater, one of the few female ministers in the Gulf region, tweeted Qatar's apologies "for the disturbing experience".