Dubai defies UN plea for Princess Latifa

Richard Spencer, The Times
April 13, 2021

The ruler of Dubai has refused to cooperate with United Nations investigators who want to know whether his adult daughter, who was recaptured at sea after trying to run away, is still alive.

A panel of UN human rights experts said they were demanding “meaningful information” on the conditions in which Princess Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, 35, was being held.

“The statement issued by the Emirates authorities merely indicating that she was being ‘cared for at home’ is not sufficient at this stage,” they said, referring to a statement made after a video in which she appealed for help.

The fate of the two daughters of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 71, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, has become a sensitive issue with the West. Princess Latifa’s older sister, Princess Shamsa, 39, tried to run away from the family’s estate in Surrey in 2000. She was seized in Cambridge and flown back to Dubai. Latifa first tried to run away in 2002. She made a second attempt in 2018 when she sent a video to a campaign group describing her life trapped with her sister. She was on a yacht to India but it was intercepted off Goa and she was forced to return.

A year later, she made a video that was smuggled to the BBC and screened in February. She said that she was being held in a villa in Dubai. The UN panel of 13 experts said that Latifa should be released immediately.

They called for “independent verification” of her conditions. The panel said that it had asked for help from Emirati officials but “no concrete information has been provided”.

Details have emerged about those who helped Latifa to flee in 2018. Hervé Jaubert, 65, the yacht owner, and Tiina Jauhiainen, 45, a fitness coach, were held in Dubai before being deported. Christian Elombo, 43, a French martial arts coach, ferried Latifa to the yacht.

He told French media that he was jailed in Oman and deported to Luxembourg where he was held on an Interpol “red notice” issued by the UAE.

“I was arrested like a big criminal, accused of kidnapping just because I helped Latifa,” he said.

“I chose to help Latifa because it was right. She knew what she wanted.”