17 MONTH UPDATE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 26 AUGUST 2019
A critical month as Latifa’s eminent legal team ask ‘Do we stand for the rule of law or not?’
Welcome to our monthly update on our international campaign to Free Latifa.
The last few months have seen endless work by all those involved in the campaign to free Latifa. As the campaign and legal team goes from strength to strength, Latifa’s chances of freedom have, we believe, improved significantly.
It is now over 17 months since an elite commando unit made up of hundreds of armed state security personnel, helicopters and planes was sent by the UAE and India to attack a small US-registered yacht in international waters, violently kidnap Latifa Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and take her back to involuntary captivity in Dubai.
But recent developments suggest the picture is changing, and the Dubai authorities’ disregard for international law may be forced to end.
July 2019 brought us the news that Sheikh Mohammed’s current wife, Princess Haya bint Hussein, has fled Dubai to London with their children. The ensuing family proceedings in London’s high court have seen a custody battle commence over the two children the couple have together. Once again the world’s spotlight has been cast onto the case of Latifa. Whilst there is no official confirmation, speculation is rife that Haya’s defection is at least partly motivated by concerns about the way Latifa has been treated under the orders of her father.
July also saw a very encouraging step forward, when the Free Latifa campaign gained the support of Latifa’s own family, the cousin of Princess Latifa, a former resident of the very palace where Latifa and Shamsa lived in Dubai. The Australian television programme 60 Minutesand The Sunday Timesnewspaper both carried features on Latifa, following Haya’s defection and the decision of Latifa’s cousin Marcus Essabri to speak out. The Australian documentary pointed out that Haya is the third member of Sheikh Mohammed’s family to escape, after Latifa in 2018 and Latifa’s full-sister Shamsa in 2000. Latifa remains in captivity in Dubai, with questions and concerns about their state of wellbeing, we have no news on Shamsa.
Meanwhile two eminent QCs, Alun Jones and Rodney Dixon, together with a leading firm of British solicitors and junior barristers, joined the campaign to free Latifa and to head a growing international legal team comprising several countries. Jones is a leading human rights lawyer and expert in international crime, while Dixon is renowned for his work in human rights and international law, and is representing the British postgraduate student Matthew Hedges who was imprisoned after a five-minute trial for allegedly spying in the UAE.
Jones immediately called on UK Government to respect rule of law in relation to the kidnapping of Latifa. ‘It is a matter of grave concern that Princess Latifa has suffered from abduction, mistreatment and arbitrary imprisonment, with no opposition or protest from the UK authorities,’ he said.‘Do we stand for the rule of law or not?’
David Haigh a Human Rights lawyer from the campaign to free Latifa and CEO of Detained International said, ‘The tide appears to be turning. Sheikh Mohammed has kidnapped and imprisoned two of his daughters and is keeping them against their will in Dubai, but now one of his wives has escaped with another two children, which could be a watershed moment in the worlds view of Dubai and the wider UAE. If Princess Haya is willing to speak, or use her influence behind the scenes, we could see Latifa released very soon, and one of the final nails in the coffin of the repugnant “male guardianship system” in the Gulf.
‘Meanwhile the campaign goes on to make it clear that Latifa is being held in violation of several international laws and conventions, and we are confident Dubai’s disregard for international law will soon crumble.’
July saw the Change.org petition to call for Latifa’s freedom pass the 14,000 mark. Whilst a fantastic achievement, it is nowhere near enough. We need to show the UAE that millions around the world will not stand for the abuse and kidnap of Latifa or anyone else. Please help us to reach 200,000 this year. https://www.change.org/p/sheikh-mohammed-bin-rashid-al-maktoum-where-is-sheikha-latifa-al-maktoum-princess-of-dubai
July also saw David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen visit Geneva, where they held meetings with Latifa’s new Swiss and immigration legal team. They also received from the United Nations the UAE’s response to the complaint filed by David Haigh and Toby Cadman with the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in 2018.
Tiina Jauhiainen, Latifa’s closest friend, said ‘Whilst I never expected we would pass a 17-month anniversary of the kidnap of Latifa, and of course the attack on myself and the crew, I have never been more encouraged by the recent progress made towards seeing my friend Latifa free. Latifa is truly blessed to have more and more supporters helping us, a top-ranking, talented and growing international legal team, and to see her bravery inspiring women around the world. In particular I want to thanks Marcus Essabri and his family, it really has been a godsend to have his support and advice.’
Tiina added‘I also want to thanks the world’s media, our amazing team of lawyers, and of course Latifa’s amazing supporters across the world. I want to also say a special thank you to David Haigh. If it were not for David’s non-stop and unconditional support for Latifa and myself, often in the face of horrific abuse, I firmly believe we could all have been killed.’
Rodney Dixon QC said: "It is most concerning that Princess Latifa has still not been released and allowed to leave the UAE. Her fundamental human rights are being unjustifiably restricted and abused. The international community can no longer stand by.
"David and Tiina have worked tirelessly for more than a year to protect her, and have themselves been needlessly attacked and smeared for doing so. We will pursue all legal avenues on behalf of Princess Latifa to resolve this situation.
“We are petitioning the UN Working Groups on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and on Arbitrary Detention and other bodies to get access to her without delay and to ensure that she is released unharmed."
Thank you for your support – together we will Free Latifa!
About Free Latifa: The Free Latifa Campaign is run by Latifa’s family, closest friends, supporters and advisors. Headed by Campaign Director, Latifa’s best friend Tiina Jauhiainen, human rights lawyer and campaigner David Haigh and Latifa’s close friends Stephania Martinengo and Marco Remes. Together with the support of not for profit legal advocacy NGO Detained International and a growing number of friends, supporters, media, lawyers, politicians and celebrities around the world the campaign has one goal, to #FreeLatifa. Updates on the campaign can be found on www.freelatifa.com
Tiina Jauhiainen and David Haigh
Campaign to Free Latifa
Telephone: + 44 (0) 203 900 1188
About Detained International: Detained International is a not for profit legal advocacy NGO, focusing on the protection and promotion of justice and human rights in Dubai, UAE and the wider Middle East. Detained International provides pro bono legal counselling to victims of injustice and other human rights violations, seeking recourse to international law mechanisms. Founded in 2018 by UAE torture victim David Haigh, a prominent Human rights lawyer and justice and equality advocate representing HRH Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum.
Telephone: + 44 (0) 203 900 1188