UN confirms illegal detention of Dubai princess by Dubai ruler

UN confirms illegal detention of Dubai princess by Dubai ruler



Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances confirms Princess Latifa, daughter of the Dubai ruler, is being detained against her will in Dubai.

The United Nations has confirmed that it doesn’t believe the assurances of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the high-profile case of the daughter of Dubai’s ruler imprisoned by her father for daring to leave Dubai.

The UN’s Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has backed a complaint by the Free Latifa campaign, who had called on it to intervene in the case of Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum to find out her whereabouts and fate, confirming that she is being ‘held in incommunicado detention’ in Dubai.

In coming to its finding, the WGEID found that the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances had been breached following acts by the UAE and India, and that the preparators of the detention of Sheikha Latifa must be investigated and be brought to justice. They further found that adequate compensation should be given to Latifa, and all measures should be taken to prevent similar cases in the future.

This is a damning finding against the UAE, of which Dubai is part, after the Gulf state told the UN working group in January 2019 that Latifa was not detained against her will. The UAE had cited the highly controversial visit of the former Irish president and UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson as evidence that the princess was ‘safe and in the loving care of her family’, but the UN group has now unequivocally rejected this.

Sheikha Latifa has been held against her will since UAE and Indian troops sent by her father, the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, captured her from a yacht on which she was sailing to India on 4 March 2018. The Free Latifa campaign referred the matter to the UN’s group on disappearances in March 2018 and have assisted the group in a near three-year-long investigation which involved the campaign giving evidence at six hearings in Geneva and Sarajevo over the past 2½ years.

Human rights lawyer David Haigh, who co-founded the Free Latifa campaign and was asked by Sheikha Latifa to help her, said, “This is a terrific judgement, and we are encouraged that it will lead to freedom for Latifa. We’re particularly pleased the WGEID didn’t allow itself to be intimidated by the refusal of the UAE government to cooperate with it or be taken in by the UAE’s dishonesty and deception, but instead have relied on the considerable evidence we submitted, alongside Latifa’s lawyers Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC.”

In a letter to Haigh, the WGEID Chief Rapporteur Tae-Ung Baik said his group had concluded that, based on its investigations and the judgement by the High Court in London in March on the divorce and custody proceedings between Sheikh Mohammed and his most recent ex-wife Princess Haya of Jordan, “Sheikha Latifa is currently held in incommunicado detention in … Dubai.” He added the working group remains ‘concerned’ for Latifa.

The WGEID said that, having located Latifa, the first part of its role was over, but it acceded to the request of the Free Latifa campaign by bringing on board several other UN working groups to take the case further, notably those dealing with violence against women, arbitrary detention, and torture, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Haigh added, “We’re grateful that the WGEID have ensured the UN will keep pressing for fair treatment for Latifa under the requirements of international law. Because the perpetrator of Latifa’s detention is her father who rules the country, the fox is still in charge of the hen house, but the WGEID’s judgement is a slap in the face for Sheikh Mohammed’s despotic rule and his disregard for his daughter’s human rights, and we very much believe this could be see a route open for the release of Latifa.”

Tiina Jauhiainen, co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign who helped Sheikha Latifa on her thwarted escape attempt in 2018, said, “Once again we have Dubai breaking international law, failing to respond to United Nations requests, and abusing the human rights of the ruler’s own family. How much longer will the world stand idly by while a state seeking acceptance in the developed world rides roughshod over the laws and values that are integral to our society and international community?

“The UN has now found that my friend Latifa, kidnapped at gun point in March 2018, is detained against her will in Dubai in breach of international law. The UN and the international community must now enforce this finding and require the UAE to free Latifa and bring the UAE and Indian perpetrators to justice.

Latifa’s cousin Marcus Essabri, who now lives in England, added, “I have known Latifa since she was a little girl. She is a wonderful woman who wants nothing more than to go out and see the world and find her natural place in it. Having myself given evidence to the WGEID alongside David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen, I am overwhelmed by its support for my cousin and cannot thank the WGEID members enough for their commitment to securing justice for her. But we are up against a ruler who doesn’t care about world opinion unless it really affects him, so our efforts to free Latifa and her sister Shamsa must not only go on but be intensified.”

Haigh added, “We, together with Alun Jones and Rodney Dixon, will continue our work alongside the WGEID and the additional UN special procedures branches to free Latifa. It is now up to the UN and the various working groups, in particular the current UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, and the wider international community to urgently intervene to uphold this finding, uphold the law, and ensure Latifa’s safety and freedom.”


Notes for editors

1. The Free Latifa campaign referred the matter to WGEID within days of the attack on the Princess’s yacht. The Princess legal team at the Free Latifa campaign headed by leading International Human Rights lawyers Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC has made multiple submissions to the UN in the past 30 months, and the legal team, together with David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen, attended six hearings of the UN in Geneva and Sarajevo to give oral and documentary evidence.

2. In a November 2020 letter to David Haigh, the UN’s Chair-Rapporteur of the WGEID, Tae-Ung Baik, concluded that, based on its investigations, the submissions of Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC, along with oral evidence given by David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen, and latterly the fact finding judgement by England’s most senior family judge Sir Andrew McFarlane in the High Court in London in March on the divorce and custody proceedings between Sheikh Mohammed and his most recent ex-wife Princess Haya of Jordan, “Sheikha Latifa is currently held in incommunicado detention in … Dubai.” And they “remain concerned” for Latifa.

3. In coming to its conclusion, the UN working group rejected the submissions and assurances of the UAE Government from January 2019 in which the UAE sought to use the controversial visit of the former Irish President and former UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson as evidence that Latifa was safe and well. The UAE government claimed that “Her Excellency Mary Robinson visited the family on 15 December (2018) and spent an afternoon with Her Highness” and “… Latifa is alive, safe and in the loving care of her family at their Dubai residences. We strongly refute the allegations …. She was not and has never been arrested or detained.”

4. The UAE Government gave assurances to the UN in January 2019 that it was investigating the matter and that “The circumstances surrounding the incident involving Her Highness in February of this year (2018) remain under investigation with various authorities. Pending the outcome of said investigations, we will, in cooperation with the authorities, and in due course, determine the appropriate course(s)of action in response to the activities of those involved.” Some 22 months later, the UAE government has failed to provide any details of such investigations or any conclusions, with the Government now simply not responding to the UN.

About Free Latifa

Princess Latifa stands for every person, especially every woman, who is held against their will when they have done nothing wrong. The Free Latifa Campaign is run by Latifa’s family, closest friends, supporters and advisors. It is headed by Latifa’s best friend Tiina Jauhiainen as Campaign Director, a human rights lawyer and campaigner David Haigh, Latifa’s cousin Marcus Essabri, and Latifa’s close friends Stephania Martinengo and Marco Remes. The campaign also benefits from the support of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Detained International and a growing number of Latifa’s family, supporters, media, lawyers, politicians and celebrities around the world. The campaign is about positivity and love, we have one goal, to #FreeLatifa. Updates on the campaign can be found on www.freelatifa.com

Press Contact          

Tiina Jauhiainen and David Haigh

Campaign to Free Latifa

Email:                          latifa@freelatifa.com

Telephone:                  + 44 (0) 203 900 1188

Twitter:                       @freelatifa

Facebook:                   @freelatifa

Instagram:                  @freelatifa