Robinson defends visit to ‘abused’ Dubai princess

Peter O’Dwyer
February 19 2019, The Times

Mary Robinson said she was invited to Dubai by the princess’s family

Mary Robinson has said that she has no regrets over getting involved in the case of a Dubai princess who had tried to flee the United Arab Emirates.

The former president and UN high commissioner for human rights was criticised by human rights groups for travelling to Dubai in December to meet Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, who tried to leave her family last year after claiming that she had suffered years of abuse.

Sheikha Latifa is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE. Following the meeting, Mrs Robinson described the 33-year-old princess as a “troubled young woman”.

Speaking after an event at Trinity College Dublin yesterday, she defended her decision to get involved, saying she “went to help a friend”. Asked whether she regretted visiting the princess, Mrs Robinson said she did not.

“I have spoken out before on human rights in the UAE. I haven’t changed my spots. I will speak out again where appropriate,” she said.

After the meeting with Sheikha Latifa, Mrs Robinson wrote a report for Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights. She said that any future action should rest with the commissioner.

“I gave a written report just after I went and then I saw her in mid-January when I went to Geneva for a meeting on sustainable development goals and human rights,” Mrs Robinson said. “I gave her a full account and I asked that her office would follow up on it. That’s what should happen in so far as possible.”

Authorities in the UAE released pictures of the meeting between Mrs Robinson and Sheikha Latifa. A few months beforehand supporters of the princess said that she had disappeared following a commando raid on a boat which had been carrying her off the coast of India after she fled her home country.

Mrs Robinson said previously that she was “dismayed” by the commentary about her visit and that she had been invited by the princess’s family.