Press Statement: UN Working Group Transmits Urgent Communication to UAE and India

Having been instructed following the unlawful abduction, arbitrary detention and torture of Sheikha Latifa Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Hervé Jean Pierre Jaubert, and Tiina Jauhiainen, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers filed an urgent complaint with the UN Special Procedures Branch, specifically the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting their urgent and immediate intervention.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UN WGEID) has transmitted the urgent communication, filed by Guernica 37 IJC, to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Republic of India in order to give provide them the opportunity to respond to the allegations concerning their involvement in Sheikha Latifa’s enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention and to provide justification for a joint-military operation that culminated in an unprovoked attack on a US-flagged yacht in international waters, the unlawful abduction, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of all those persons on the US-flagged yacht, Nostromo.

Sheikha Latifa, is a Dubai princess – being the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. She was reported missing on 5 March 2018 along with a dual French-US national, Hervé Jean Pierre Jaubert, and a third person, Ms. Tiina Jauhiainen, a long-time friend of Sheikha Latifa. 

Prior to her disappearance Sheikha Latifa had made contact with ‘Detained in Dubai’, an NGO assisting individuals who are victims of injustice in the UAE and wider Gulf region, confirming that she had escaped from the UAE. In her recorded messages, Sheikha Latifa described the details of her detention in the UAE, her abuse, what amounted to the kidnapping of her and her sister, and the fact that she feared for her life. She instructed that her messages ought to be publicly released in the event that she hadn’t managed to flee the UAE for the world to learn about her ordeal suffered at the hands of what is clearly an autocratic and controlling regime.
The messages clearly show a calm, although frightened, young lady alleging that she has been imprisoned by her father, subjected to serious ill-treatment, unable to move freely within Dubai, always being accompanied by State Security officials, and her movements being monitored 24 hours per day. Moreover, she stated that she was not allowed to have her own passport and leave Dubai since 2000.

In her emotional plea, she states “I have left the United Arab Emirates but I am not out of danger’. Sheikha Latifa’s account from her recordings, recordings that have been independently verified, appears to describe a system of abuse that required international intervention.

In her last call to Ms. Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, Sheikha Latifa “appeared to be highly distressed and in a state of panic.”  She said“Radha please help me, there are men outside.  I heard gunshots”.

The UK Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they have referred the matter to the UK National Crime Agency and Interpol to investigate. The Princess’ situation, as alleged, is of the highest concern, and once again brings the autocratic regime of the UAE, a state that operates under a veil of legitimacy whilst continuously and consistently violating human rights and fundamental freedoms, into the spotlight.

Having conducted a review of all available evidence and verified several facts, Guernica 37 IJC filed an immediate Petition of Complaint with the UN Special Procedures and asked that they intervene with a view to securing the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa. Recently, Guernica 37 IJC attended a session of the UN WGEID to stress the urgency of the situation. The UN WGEID has now transmitted our urgent petition to the UAE and the Republic of India.

We call on the States concerned to respond to the UN as a matter of urgency, to release Sheikha Latifa and allow her to leave the UAE if that is her desire and to provide adequate reparations to those persons who were abducted, detained and beaten by Indian and UAE State Security officials.

David Haigh, a British lawyer and partner at Detained in Dubai, himself a victim of torture in the UAE and currently pursuing a criminal complaint against the UAE, said

“When Princess Latifa put her trust in us and appointed Radha and I at Detained in Dubai to represent her and protect her in her bid for freedom from torture and abuse, it was clear to us that an application to the United Nations Special Procedures Branch was an essential step in seeking to achieve this. We are fortunate to have a close working relationship with the renowned Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers and were able to secure Toby Cadman’s attendance at the UN in Geneva within hours of Princess Latifa going missing. The United Nations and the international community are to whom we must look, when unelected dictators seek to position themselves above the law. No one is above the law and we look forward to the United Nations acting rapidly to ensure that Latifa is free and safe and able to live her life as she, and no one else, choses.

Regardless of her father, Sheikha Latifa, as an individual, has the right to peacefully enjoy her life, and all of the evidence thus far presented suggests that she is being prevented from doing so. This urgent petition has been submitted with a view to ensuring that Sheikha Latifa’s basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are protected.

We remain grateful to the UN WGEID and its independent members for taking this matter up and pushing for Sheikha Latifa’s release. It is essential that the UAE takes the necessary steps to comply with the request thus far made and sincerely addresses the fundamental problems with its political, judicial and penal systems. At present there are serious defects and there is a complete absence of fundamental democratic principles, human rights protection and the rule of law have no practical application. The UAE operates under a veil of legitimacy that is built on impunity and oppression. That must end.

Guernica37 International Justice Chambers in London, the non-profit organization Guernica Centre for International Justice in the United States and G37 Despacho Internacional in Madrid, form The Guernica Group. Our international team of lawyers specialize in International Criminal Law and strategic transnational litigation to obtain accountability for international crimes and human rights violations. The Guernica Group seeks to contribute to national processes of accountability by designing legal strategies in partnership with key actors in countries experiencing transitional processes after conflict or post-conflict situations.