The UAE is a federation of states or emirates, which comprises Dubai, Abu Dhabi (capital city), Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah. The country is ruled by the UAE’s Constitution, and the primary authority of the country is the Supreme Council, which comprises of the seven emirates’ rulers. In this system, Rashid al-Maktoum is the ruler of the UAE, where he is given the title of Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Thus, he is the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
The current political landscape is in a lot of unrest. The BBC published videos on Tuesday in which Princess Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, has alleged her kidnapping. She states that she has been held hostage by her father in a villa converted into a jail and adds she has no access to medical aid. Latif accuses that she has been kept in “solitary confinement” without any trial or charges against her. She also talks about her struggle to fight back against commandos while she was being captured and “tranquilized”.
In one of the snippets, Latifa said, “All the windows are barred shut .” “There’s five policemen outside and two policewomen inside the house. And I can’t even go outside to get any fresh air.”
“I’m doing this video from a bathroom because this is the only room with a door I can lock. I’m a hostage. I am not free. I’m enslaved in this jail. My life is not in my hands”, the princess further added.
These accounts of capture and detention were revealed by Latifa’s friend Tiina Jauhianen, her cousin Marcus Essabri and campaigner David Haigh, who are a part of a campaign called ‘Free Latifa’.
Indian Express reported, “An investigation led by the BBC revealed the videos, which were apparently recorded in a bathroom, were taken over the course of several months on a phone Latifa was given about a year after she returned to Dubai in 2018.”
Who is Sheikha Latifa?
Princess Latifa, or Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, is the daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Her mother, Her Royal Highness Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, had married al-Maktoum in 2004 and is his second “official wife”.
She was born in 1984. According to the ‘Free Latifa’ campaign, the princess tried to escape from her family residence in 2002 at the age of 16. She was, however, traced and brought back home where she was allegedly detained by her father for over a time span of three years. Her second attempt of escaping from the middle-eastern country was on February 24, 2018, where she met up with her Finnish friend Tiina Jauhiainen and left Dubai in a car, and crossed borders entering Oman. From there, they sailed off in international waters. However, her escape mission came to a standstill, when she was caught just off the coast of Goa in India by Indian and UAE military force, thus was taken back to Dubai again.
A report in Hindustan Times said, “She alerted British human rights lawyer David Haigh of Detained International of her departure two days later. Jaubert made contact with an Indian journalist on March 3, 2018, in preparation for their arrival, but the yacht was intercepted by Indian authorities as they were approaching Goa.” “The attempted sea escape and its aftermath threw the carefully controlled family image of Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed into public life”, it added.
The verdict of the court
The ruler’s wife Princess Haya moved to the UK in 2019 with her two children and thus Sheikh Mohammed commanded London High Court to return his two children (Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) back to Dubai. Thus, the proceedings of the court were released in March 2020, and it stated some chief allegations made by Princess Haya.
She accused that the ruler conducted unlawful abduction of his daughter Princess Shamsa in 2000 from the UK to Dubai. She also alleged that he ordered the forcible return of his daughter Latifa to the family home in Dubai.
The judge thus stated, “At the conclusion of the fact-finding judgment I found each of the mother’s core allegations, save for an assertion related to forced marriage, proved.”
However, the Sheikh claimed that the verdict only sided one part of the story and declared the issue to be an internal matter.
International Support extended to Latifa
In the backdrop of such serious events, The United Nations has demanded proof from the UAE about Latifa being alive.
A spokesperson for Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said on Friday that the UN had “expressed our concerns regarding the situation, in light of the disturbing videos which have surfaced this week. We have requested more information and clarification on the current situation.” “We asked for proof of life,” she added.
In response to this, The UAE’s embassy in London said in a statement, “media coverage does not reflect the true situation” and she was being cared for at home supported by her family and medical professionals.” “She continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time”, it further added.