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Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson speaking on RTÉ's Late Late Show Screengrab via RTÉ
Sheikha Latifa

Mary Robinson says she made 'mistake' and was 'naive' in case of Dubai princess

Dubai Princess Latifa Al Maktoum has claimed she is being held hostage in a ‘jail villa’, and fears for her safety.

FORMER PRESIDENT OF Ireland Mary Robinson has said she made a “mistake” and was “naive” in relation to the case of Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa.

Speaking to RTÉ One’s Late Late Show, Robinson said: “I made a mistake. I let my heart lead my head. I went to help a friend. I was naive. I should have been more alert.” 

Robinson, the former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said earlier this month that she was “horribly tricked” over a photo taken of her with Princess Latifa, the daughter of the Dubai ruler – who has said she is being held hostage by her father.

In February 2018, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum reportedly tried to flee Dubai, but her friends said that commandos stormed a boat carrying her off the coast of India.

She was then brought back to the Emirates by Dubai’s ruler, the UAE’s prime minister and vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Amid increasing international concern for the woman’s welfare, in December 2018 Mary Robinson attended a family lunch on invitation from Dubai’s royal family, and was photographed with the princess.

Afterwards, Robinson called Latifa a “troubled young woman”, which drew criticism from human rights organisations. 

In footage shared with and published by BBC Panorama on 16 February, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum appeared in a video where she said that she is a hostage in a “villa converted into a jail” guarded by police, and fears for her safety. 

“Everyday I worry about my safety and my life. I don’t really know if I’m going to survive this situation.

“I don’t want to be a hostage in this jail-villa – I just want to be free. I don’t know what they’re planning to do with me. I really don’t know. So the situation is getting more desperate every day.” 

Robinson told the BBC that although she was aware the 2018 photographs of her with the princess were being taken, she thought it was for a “private photograph” to prove that the princess was alive.

“I was particularly tricked when the photographs went public. Horribly tricked. I mean that was a total surprise. I was absolutely stunned.”

Speaking to the Late Late Show, Robinson confirmed she has been in touch with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney in relation to the princess. 

“I’ve been in touch with Simon Coveney, and he has said we are on the [UN] Security Council now, but even before that contact had been made with our ambassador in Geneva to support the High Commissioner,” Robinson said, adding that the princess “needs political support”. 

The former president said that she “100% believes Latifa now” and that the princess should be freed.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told earlier this month that the government will “engage with” Robinson over the case. 


Dubai’s royal family on 19 February insisted that Sheikha Latifa was being “cared for at home” after the United Nations demanded proof that she was still alive following the airing of the video.

In a statement issued by the UAE’s embassy in London, the Dubai royal family said: “We want to thank those who have expressed concern for her wellbeing, despite the coverage which certainly is not reflective of the actual position.

“Her family has confirmed that her highness is being cared for at home, supported by her family and medical professionals.

“Sheikha Latifa continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time.”

The embassy did not provide any accompanying footage or images.

Friends of the princess say they are concerned for her safety because she has not been heard from since she stopped responding to text messages six months ago.

In December, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances reported that it had decided to examine the case of Sheikha Latifa, “who is reportedly being held in incommunicado detention at her family home in Dubai”.

With reporting by Christina Finn.

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