Detained in Dubai welcomes Amnesty International’s calls for release of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, daughter of the Ruler of Dubai, who has been detained incommunicado for six months in the UAE after being abducted by Indian and Emirati special forces during an attempt to flee the country to seek asylum in America
Amnesty International, on the 6 month anniversary of Princess Latifa’s disappearance, called on the UAE and Indian governments “to investigate and hold to account all officials implicated in unlawful acts in the course of its raid on the Nostromo, including arbitrary detention and physical abuse which may rise to the level of torture. The organisation calls on the UAE to grant Sheikha Al Maktoum full and unrestricted freedom of movement and communication with the outside world; to investigate allegations of her mistreatment in detention, from 2002 to present; and to take measures to hold accountable officials at any level who may be complicit in holding her incommunicado. If Amnesty International Public Statement www.amnesty.org 3 warranted her situation should be investigated as a case of enforced disappearance. More generally, Amnesty International calls on the UAE to respect and uphold women’s rights as legal co-equals with men and, accordingly, to eliminate discriminatory legislation and related social practices.” (Full report attached in PDF)
Princess Latifa has alleged that her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, abused her since she was a minor and severely restricted her personal freedom. She attempted to escape in late February, 2018 with her friend Tiina Jauhiainen, on a US registered yacht captained by Hervé Jaubert; intending to sail to India and then proceed to the United States to seek asylum. On March 4th, however, the yacht, Nostromo, was violently boarded by the Indian Coast Guard and UAE special forces. Latifa was forcibly removed from the boat and handed over to the Emiratis; everyone onboard was taken into custody and taken back to the UAE in handcuffs and blindfolds.
Though Tiina, Hervé, and the boat’s crew were eventually released under public pressure; there is no information about Latifa’s wellbeing or whereabouts, and both the UAE and India have defied United Nations’ enquiries into her condition and the circumstances of her capture.
Detained in Dubai has been involved in Latifa’s case from the very beginning. The princess contacted CEO Radha Stirling via instant messenger from aboard Nostromo asking for help. After a first thoroughly verifying Latifa’s identity, the Detained in Dubai team began investigating her options for safe haven, until Stirling received a panicked call from Latifa on March 4th, saying the boat was under attack. It was the last time anyone heard from Latifa.
Stirling and her team immediately contacted authorities in several countries about the incident and the disappearances of the princess, her friend, and the crew of Nostromo. She filed missing person reports for the passengers and crew, and requested information from the UAE government.
Detained in Dubai maintained continuous contact with Latifa’s American lawyers, and released news of the events to the press. Due to the publication of the incident, UAE authorities released Tiina Jauheinen and Herve Jaubert, as well as the rest of the Nostromo crew.
Stirling, along with solicitor David Haigh enlisted the support of Toby Cadman, head of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers in London, and petitioned the United Nations to enquire about the attack on Nostromo in international waters, the abduction of all onboard, and the continued detention of Princess Latifa.
The United Nations officially sent enquiries to both the UAE and India, and is continuing in its efforts to secure Princess Latifa's safety.
Stirling and Haigh have filed complaints with the FBI in America over the attack on Nostromo, and the abduction of Herve Jaubert, a dual French and US citizen.
International media has only intensified in its coverage of the Latifa case, with major reports appearing on BBC, Fox News Radio, and 60 Minutes in Australia.
Not only has the United Arab Emirates been unresponsive to enquiries from the UN; they have actively tried to silence the Latifa story. Initially after Latifa’s abduction, when the international press began to report the news; the local media in the Emirates began re-publishing out of date articles on a different daughter of Sheikh Mohammed named Latifa, apparently to create the impression that the missing Latifa Al Maktoum was in fact safe and free in Dubai.
When the authorities released Tiina and Herve, both were forced to sign Non Disclosure Agreements, and severely warned never to speak of the incident. Tiina was even threatened by an official who told her that Sheikh Mohammed had the power to ‘get to her’ anywhere in the world.
Detained in Dubai has received threatening emails and messages in response to their involvement in the case, including a bomb threat that was treated as credible by the British anti-terrorism unit.
Since the story has been widely published around the world, the UAE clamped down on social media, censoring any online discussion about the Latifa case.
Stirling says, “It has been confirmed to us by contacts in the UAE that there is a government-ordered blackout on any coverage of the Latifa case; and anyone posting about it on social media, or even sharing news articles from the international press, will be prosecuted under the country’s cybercrime laws.”
“September 4th marks 6 months since the kidnapping of Princess Latifa,” remarks Detained in Dubai partner David Haigh, “And the UAE continues to defy the calls from around the world for her release. We have approached them; Human Rights Watch has approached them; the United Nations has approached them; and now Amnesty International is approaching them to free Latifa. We will keep pushing for answers and accountability, and we will continue demanding Latifa’s release until she is finally freed and allowed to travel to a safe jurisdiction to live in security.”
Despite growing domestic pressure, and the ongoing United Nations enquiry, the government of India has also failed to address its involvement in the illegal raid on Nostromo, and their role in the abduction of Latifa. According to Indian law, any asylum seeker must be accorded a fair hearing, and eye witnesses at the time of the raid confirm that Latifa clearly communicated to both the Emirati and Indian forces that she was, in fact, seeking asylum.
“India’s involvement in this illegal act is becoming a serious problem for the government,” says Stirling. “It has been reported by local investigative journalists that the Coast Guard was deployed to capture Latifa without any official record, and without following standard protocols; because the decision was made during a personal phone call between Prime Minister Modi and Sheikh Mohammed. This is an inexcusable abuse of power. We are very happy to see other major organisations like Amnesty International supporting the demand for accountability, and for Latifa’s immediate release.”
The basic human and civil rights of women in the United Arab Emirates continue to be subverted, with numerous cases highlighting the inherent bias in the legal and social structure of the country.
“Women are not treated equally before the law in the UAE,” Stirling explains, “a woman who has been sexually assaulted or raped, for example, finds herself criminally charged with engaging in unlawful intercourse.”
Radha Stirling comments, “The Latifa case has highlighted to the international community something Detained in Dubai has been dealing with for a decade; that the image of the UAE as a developed, modern, Westernised society is a facade. Through our work exposing the rampant human rights abuses, wrongful imprisonment, torture, forced confessions, and even deaths in custody; the United Kingdom has all but nullified the possibility of extradition to the UAE.
“The legal system suffers from endemic corruption, favouritism, and racial, gender, and religious discrimination, and prejudice on the basis of sexuality. Same sex relationships are criminalised, and can warrant the death penalty. Any criticism of the government is treated as a matter of national security and can result in indefinite detention without charge. Forced confessions have become standard procedure in the UAE, and there are grave inadequacies in due process, leaving innocent people with no recourse, particularly foreigners.”
Detained in Dubai partner, Shahid Bolsen says, “We are pleased to have enlisted the assistance of the world’s most respected human rights organisations: Detained in Dubai, Amnesty, HRW & the United Nations. The UAE must understand that its inclusion in the international community is contingent upon respect for the rule of law and adherence to accepted standards of Human Rights. No amount of PR or marketing is going to undo the damage to the UAE’s reputation caused by this case. There is only one way forward for them, and that is to free Latifa.”