Middle East

Is Dubai Princess, Unseen in Public, Still Alive?

GENEVA — United Nations human rights experts expressed alarm on Tuesday that Dubai’s government has not responded to repeated requests for proof that Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, a daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler, is alive and well.

“Evidence of life and assurances regarding her well-being are urgently required,” the U.N. analysts said in a statement, which comes two months after friends of Sheikha Latifa released dramatic video footage in which she said she was being held prisoner in a Dubai palace and feared for her life.

The 13 experts, including members of a panel that deals with enforced disappearances, sought to escalate international pressure on Dubai’s government by calling for Sheikha Latifa’s immediate release.

“It’s now incumbent on world leaders to support the U.N. and give their backing for her immediate release,” David Haigh, a British lawyer campaigning for Sheikha Latifah’s freedom, said in a phone interview.

The 35-year-old princess tried to escape her closely controlled life in Dubai twice, in 2002 and in 2018. On the second occasion she fled aboard a yacht, only to be snatched by Indian commandos who raided the vessel close to the coast of India and handed her over to Emirati security officers.

Sheikha Latifa has been virtually unseen in public since then, appearing once in a photo of a 2018 lunch attended by the former Irish President Mary Robinson. At the time, Ms. Robinson said she believed Sheikha Latifa was mentally troubled and receiving good care from her family, but she later told the BBC she had been “horribly tricked.”

“Every day, I’m worried about my safety in my life,” Sheikha Latifa said in her recent video, which friends said was recorded on a mobile phone and smuggled out by intermediaries. “I don’t really know if I’m going to survive this situation.”

Dubai’s prior assurances that she is being looked after by family and medical professionals are “not sufficient at this stage,” the U.N. panel said.

United Arab Emirates diplomatic missions in Geneva and London could not be reached for comment on the U.N. panel’s statement.

Concern for Sheikha Latifa’s well-being has been reinforced by accounts of harsh behavior by her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, that emerged in divorce proceedings filed in British courts by one of his wives, Princess Haya.

A judge found last year that Sheikh Mohammed had also abducted Sheikha Latifah’s sister Shamsa. The court heard she was seized on the streets of Cambridge in August 2000 after leaving an estate owned by her father, then taken by helicopter to France and then flown back to Dubai.

In a bid to step up international pressure, Mr. Haigh said the campaign will ask the British and American governments and the European Union next week to impose financial sanctions and travel bans on Sheikh Mohammed and five others he said are implicated in Sheikha Latifa’s detention. They include the Emirati security chief, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, who the United Arab Emirates has put forward as a candidate to lead the international policing organization Interpol, Mr. Haigh said.

Sheikh Mohammed, ranked among the world’s richest men, has major holdings and investments in Britain and the United States. A passionate horse enthusiast, his investments include the racing organization Godolphin, whose horse Essential Quality is a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

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