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Dubai royal family says princess being 'cared for at home' after UN demands proof of life

The princess has not been seen in public since she attempted to escape from the emirate by sea in 2018.

Sheikha Latifa
Sheikha Latifa
Image: Balkis Press/ABACA via PA Images

Updated Feb 19th 2021, 8:12 PM

DUBAI’S ROYAL FAMILY has insisted that Sheikha Latifa was being “cared for at home” after the United Nations demanded proof that she was still alive following “disturbing” footage aired this week.

The UN Human Rights Office said it had asked the United Arab Emirates for evidence after the BBC published video shot by the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum saying she was being held captive and feared for her life.

Sheikh Mohammed is the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, of which Dubai is one of the seven emirates.

His 35-year-old daughter has not been seen in public since a foiled attempt to escape from the emirate in March 2018.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it had spoken to the UAE’s diplomatic mission in Geneva yesterday.

“We did raise the case yesterday with the permanent mission here in Geneva,” OHCHR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters.

“We did ask for proof of life.”

The BBC said the clips it broadcast on Tuesday were filmed roughly a year after Latifa was captured and returned to Dubai, showing her crouched in a corner of what she says is a bathroom.

The undated videos were aired as Latifa’s friends voiced concern that they are no longer receiving secret messages from her, the BBC reported.

Latifa ‘supported by family’

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.

Throssell, from the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet, said they raised concerns with the UAE “in light of the disturbing video evidence”.

“We requested more information and clarification about Sheikha Latifa’s current situation.

“Given the serious concerns about Sheikha Latifa, we have requested that the government’s response comes as a matter of priority.

“We will continue to monitor and assess the situation closely.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday he was “concerned” by the videos, which his Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called “very distressing”.

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Foiled escape

In March 2018, Latifa attempted to flee the UAE on a boat that was intercepted by commandos off the coast of India, according to her companions and the UK-based group Detained in Dubai. 

In the videos, Latifa says that men from the UAE sat on her, tried to tie her up and injected her with a sedative.

A Dubai government source later said she had been “brought back” and the UAE released photographs of Latifa, saying she was receiving “the necessary care and support”.

Latifa said she was held for about three months in the Al-Awir central prison in Dubai, until May 2018, before being moved to a villa.

On 6 December 2018, Bernard Duhaime, the chair-rapporteur of the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, and Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, wrote to the UAE demanding information on her whereabouts.

Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaibani, the head of the royal court, replied on 18 December with pictures from three days earlier of Latifa with Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and former UN rights chief.

“She was and never has been arrested or detained,” Shaibani wrote.

“This is a private family matter; her highness and her family are working together with professional support to do everything possible to ensure her current and future welfare.”

© AFP 2021

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