Mary Robinson’s visit to Dubai mentioned in British court judgment

Colm Keena
March 7, 2020, The Irish Times

Court found Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum ordered abduction of two of his daughters

Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum: the high court in England and Wales found that two older daughters of the sheikh, Shamsa and Latifa, had been abducted on their father’s orders.

The British court judgment that found the billionaire ruler of Dubai had ordered the abduction of two of his daughters, mentions the controversial visit former president Mary Robinson made to Dubai in December 2018.

The judgment relates to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and his former wife, Princess Haya Al Hussein, who lived in Ireland in the 1990s.

In his ruling the judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the high court in England and Wales, found that two older daughters of the sheikh, Shamsa and Latifa, had been abducted on their father’s orders, with Shamsa having been abducted from the UK in 2000 and taken to Dubai, via France, in her father’s private jet.

In 2018, the sheikh ordered the forced return of Latifa to Dubai from a boat off the coast of India, an operation conducted by armed soldiers. Both women are daughters of one of the sheikh’s “unofficial wives”.

Sheikh Mohammed did not give evidence to the court but said in a witness statement it was not possible for him to “produce” the two daughters, who live in Dubai, to give evidence. “Both Shamsa and Latifa were adamant that they did not want to do this.”

He said Princess Haya did not believe, up to January 2019, that the women were being ill-treated and “was taking steps, for example by inviting Mary Robinson to visit, to disprove the negative allegations” that were being made.

Princess Haya told the court that initially she did not believe reports that Latifa had been forcibly returned to Dubai.

Over time, however, she became increasingly concerned. She began to question what she had been told by her husband about Latifa’s mental health.

‘Akin to a prison’

On December 6th, she visited Latifa in a house that was locked and guarded.

“I went upstairs and knocked on Latifa’s bedroom door. She opened the door, looked at me, embraced me, and burst into tears. She cried for a long time.”

She considered the conditions she found Latifa in to be “akin to a prison”, the judge noted.

“The mother [the princess] states that on December 10th, 2018 she decided to contact Mary Robinson… whom she had known from previous times. The intention was for Mary Robinson to visit Dubai to establish ‘proof of life’ with respect to Latifa on behalf of the United Nations.” This visit happened later in December.

On Christmas Eve 2019, photographs of Mrs Robinson with Latifa were released by the family to rebut what they described as “false allegations” she was taken home against her will.

After her visit was criticised by human rights organisations Mrs Robinson insisted she had travelled to Dubai “in good faith”. She declined to comment on the court judgment on Thursday. Comment was also sought on Friday.