Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai appointed by Princess Latifa, comments on what should follow the McFarlane ruling:
"While the ruling by Sir Andrew McFarlane that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was guilty of grave violations of international law and norms of human rights is not itself a legal indictment for those crimes, no one can doubt that it lays the groundwork for a serious criminal investigation against the Ruler of Dubai which could lead to him being formally charged.
If a British court has ruled that Sheikh Mohammed’s illegal abductions of his daughters Shamsa and Latifa must be considered in determining his fitness for custody of his children with Princess Haya bint Hussein in their divorce proceedings, then these crimes have been treated by the court as facts. The only logical step to follow is for Sheikh Mohammed to face an investigation and trial.
In light of the inevitability of criminal charges, the UAE must begin preparing for a smooth succession of power in Dubai. From the moment of Princess Latifa’s escape, the UAE strove to suppress the story, and Sheikh Mohammed executed the illegal military operation to capture Latifa, precisely because they knew her testimony would end her father’s reign. The actions he took, however, simply guaranteed those consequences.
With Sir Andrew McFarlane’s ruling, the UK has signalled, not only to the UAE, but to the broader Gulf, that the escalating lawlessness by governments in the region will no longer be allowed to continue with impunity. Dubai, and the Gulf are going to have to adapt to a new era of accountability, and the first order of business in this regard is the removal of Sheikh Mohammed from power, and acceptance of international justice over the kidnappings of Shamsa and Latifa.
Heads of state cannot behave like criminal kingpins, nor treat the government as their own private organisation in service to their personal interests. Every state is accountable to the international rule of law and must adhere to diplomatic norms; and when they fail to do so, other states must hold them to account.
The United Nations inquiry we initiated has been persistently stalled and stonewalled by the UAE. After submitting the original complaint and providing testimony, we have not seen any notable progress by the UN. The ruling by McFarlane opens up the avenue of a criminal investigation in the United Kingdom, and we believe this will prove to be the best course to pursue justice for both Shamsa and Latifa.
The UK must immediately re-open the investigation into the kidnapping of Princess Shamsa from British soil in 2000, as well as launch an inquiry into why the original investigation was aborted when police were eager to pursue the matter in the UAE, but were essentially shut down by the FCO.
Over more than 12 years, we have worked to support British citizens and other foreign nationals wrongfully detained and falsely accused in the UAE, and we have often experienced the conspicuous reluctance of the FCO to intervene even in cases involving gross miscarriages of justice against UK citizens. Political and economic interests cannot be allowed to supersede the rule of law and concern for human rights; if the FCO interfered in any way with the investigation into Shamsa’s abduction, we can only assume that the same attitude which precipitated such interference also impacts the FCO’s position regarding British victims of legal abuse in the UAE. This has to be addressed.
As an organisation, we have been warning for years that the government of the UAE was becoming increasingly lawless and belligerent, and that it posed an escalating risk to foreigners in the country, and indeed, a threat to regional stability with the potential of drawing other nations into breaching international norms of justice; as when Sheikh Mohammed recruited the involvement of India into the illegal abduction and rendition of Princess Latifa. Political entities have failed to hold the UAE to account and grievous crimes have been committed; we believe that accountability must now be the task of international law enforcement and the courts.
Sheikh Mohammed should stand down as the Ruler of Dubai, and take the stand in a court of law."
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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