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Mary Robinson 'dismayed' at media comments as she comes under fire for claiming Dubai princess is 'troubled'

Mary Robinson has come under fire for claiming that an Emirati princess who has stated she is being held against her will is “in the loving care of her family”.

Updated Dec 28th 2018, 10:44 AM

Dubai Missing Princess The UAE released the first images of Sheikha Latifa on Monday, months after friends and supporters say she disappeared following commandos storming a boat carrying her off the coast of India. Source: AP/PA Images

FORMER IRISH PRESIDENT Mary Robinson has said she is “dismayed”  at some of the media comments about her visit with a Dubai princess who was feared missing. 

Robinson has been criticised for comments she made in an interview on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme yesterday, Robinson said the woman was “troubled” and “vulnerable” adding that she was assured the princess was in good care. 

She has since come under fire from some human rights campaigners. 

Reacting to the media coverage today, Robinson released a statement this morning, in which she said: 

“I am dismayed at some of the media comments on my visit and I would like to say I
undertook the visit and made an assessment, not a judgement, based on personal
witness, in good faith and to the best of my ability. I will not be making any further
comment on this issue at this time.”

The princess who was last seen in March as she was forcibly removed from a boat following a failed escape was photographed for the first time alive and well with Robinson last week. 

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum is the daughter of Dubai’ ruler and prime minister. The 32-year-old hadn’t been seen or heard from in public since March. 

Maktoum announced in a video published in March she was fleeing the emirate. She managed to get herself onto a yacht in the Indian Ocean but this vessel was intercepted and she was removed back to Dubai.

Source: BBC News/YouTube

Human Rights Watch urged the Dubai authorities to reveal the whereabouts of the princess, saying her case could constitute “enforced disappearance”.

Amnesty International also called for the princess’ freedom and for those “holding her incommunicado” to be held accountable.

Last week, photos of the princess and Robinson emerged appearing to show the princess in good health and eating with the former UN human rights chief.

The photos were accompanied with a statement from the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stating that at the request of the family, Robinson former met with Sheikha Latifa in Dubai on 15 December. Robinson confirmed this in the statement issued today. 

At the request of Princess Haya bint Hussein, one of the wives of the UAE Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, I visited Dubai on 15th December to meet with Her Highness Sheikha Latifa.
I have known and worked with Princess Haya for many years in her capacity as a member of the UN Global Humanitarian Forum and as a UN Messenger of Peace. I was aware of the international concern over Sheikha Latifa and that she had not been seen for many months so when Princess Haya asked me to go to Dubai to meet with both of them I agreed, without hesitation.
On my arrival in Dubai I received extensive briefings and it was clear to me that Princess Haya had particular concern for the welfare of Sheikha Latifa whom she described as troubled and quite vulnerable. During my time with her Sheikha Latifa presented as a very likeable young woman with a wide range of interests but her
vulnerability was apparent.

During the interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme yesterday, Robinson said she went to Dubai to “help with a family dilemma”. 

“The dilemma was that Latifa is vulnerable, she’s troubled. She made a video that she now regrets and she planned an escape, or what was part of a plan of escape,” Robinson said.

“I had lunch with her. She’s a very likeable young woman but clearly troubled, clearly needs the medical care that she is receiving.”

She added that the video the princess made about wanting to escape is now something she regrets. 

When pressed about whether the circumstances of the visit allowed her to judge the situation accurately, given that she was in the company of her family. 

Robinson said she was able to assess the situation and was assured she is being well looked after, though she said it was a “complicated situation”. 

Dubai Missing Princess The UAE released the first images of Sheikha Latifa last week months after friends and supporters say she disappeared following commandos storming a boat carrying her off the coast of India. Source: AP/PA Images

Robinson said the princess was suffering from “a serious medical situation” and receiving psychiatric care. She added her family do not want her to endure any more publicity. 

In her statement today, Robinson said since her return from Dubai she has written a report of my visit to Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“I believe future action rests with that office, with the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances and with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.”

Since her comments yesterday, the former Irish president has faced criticism from human rights campaigners. 

The Twitter account for the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice has also been deleted.

Radha Stirling, head of the rights group Detained in Dubai, said in a tweet about the interview that her remarks conform to the official narrative of the government. 

“Anyone familiar with Princess Latifa’s story who listened to the BBC Radio interview today with Mary Robinson will be astonished at the extent to which Mrs Robinson appeared to be reciting almost verbatim from Dubai’s script,” she said.

Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson also criticised Robinson: 

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