Dubai ruler seeks to keep judgments private in UK court fight with former wife

Michael Holden
February 26, 2020, Reuters

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, began an appeal on Wednesday to prevent the publication of two judgments in a British court battle with his former wife Princess Haya bint al-Hussein over the wardship of their two children.

The contest began last May and there have been a number of private hearings at London’s High Court before the president of the Family Division, Andrew McFarlane.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal in London heard a challenge by Sheikh Mohammed, aged 70, against publication of two judgments by McFarlane, who decided last month that these should be made public.

Princess Haya, 45-year-old daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, and the court-appointed guardian of the children both supported publication, the court heard.

“This appeal arises from wardship proceedings in the High Court concerning two children who are at present within the jurisdiction of the Court,” said Justice Nicholas Underhill, vice-president of the Court of Appeal.

He said the two judgments “raise matters of public interest beyond the particular issue in the wardship proceedings”.

“The first concerned certain disputed factual issues; the second concerned issues arising out of the special position of the father as the sovereign and head of government of a foreign state,” he said.

The two parties said in a statement in July that the case did not concern divorce or finances but was limited to their children’s welfare.


The sheikh has applied to the court for the summary return of his children to Dubai. Princess Haya has asked the court to protect one of the children from a forced marriage and to grant a non-molestation order, a type of injunction that protects against harassment or threats.

The wardship proceedings are still ongoing and there will be a “welfare hearing” at the end of next month, Underhill said.

Sheikh Mohammed is also vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. He has more than 20 children by different wives, and married the princess in 2004 in what was believed to be his sixth marriage.

Haya, who is half-sister to King Abdullah, the present ruler Jordan, was in court for Wednesday’s proceedings. The sheikh was not present and has not attended any of the previous hearings.

Haya was educated in Britain and competed in equestrian jumping in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In the past, she often attended horse racing at the Royal Ascot meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, one of the founders of the highly successful Godolphin racing stable.

She is being represented by Fiona Shackleton, the lawyer who represented Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, in his divorce from his late first wife, Princess Diana.

David Pannick, who successfully represented anti-Brexit campaigners in two high-profile court victories over the government last year, is a member of Sheikh Mohammed’s legal team.