LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Wednesday that it would like to see proof that Sheikha Latifa, one of the ruler of Dubai’s daughters, is still alive after the BBC published a video saying she was being held against her will in a barricaded villa.
Asked if he would support seeing some kind of proof from the United Arab Emirates that Sheikha Latifa is alive, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky:
“Given what we’ve just seen, I think people would just at a human level want to see that she’s alive and well, of course, I think that’s a natural instinct and we would certainly welcome that.”
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum drew international attention in 2018 when a human rights group released a video made by her in which she described an attempt to escape Dubai.
The daughter of Dubai’s ruler who tried to flee the country in 2018 later sent secret video messages to friends accusing her father of holding her “hostage” as she feared for her life.
In footage shared with BBC Panorama, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum says commandos drugged her as she fled by boat and flew her back to detention.
The secret messages have stopped – and friends are urging the UN to step in.
Dubai and the UAE have previously said she is safe in the care of family.
Ex-UN rights envoy Mary Robinson, who had described Latifa as a “troubled young woman” after meeting her in 2018, now says she was “horribly tricked” by the princess’s family.
The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and president of Ireland has joined calls for international action to establish Latifa’s current condition and whereabouts.
“I continue to be very worried about Latifa. Things have moved on. And so I think it should be investigated,” she said.
The videos were recorded over several months on a phone Latifa was secretly given about a year after her capture and return to Dubai. She recorded them in a bathroom as it had the only door she could lock.
In the messages, she detailed how:
- she fought back against the soldiers taking her off the boat, “kicking and fighting” and biting one Emirati commando’s arm until he screamed
- after being tranquillised she lost consciousness as she was being carried on to a private jet, and didn’t wake up until it landed in Dubai
- she was being held alone without access to medical or legal help in a villa with windows and doors barred shut, and guarded by police
Latifa’s account of her capture and detention was revealed to Panorama by her close friend Tiina Jauhiainen, maternal cousin Marcus Essabri and campaigner David Haigh, who are all behind the Free Latifa campaign.
They say they have taken the difficult decision to release the messages now out of concern for Latifa’s safety.
It was they who managed to establish contact with Latifa as she was held in a Dubai “villa”, which she said had barred windows and police guards.
Panorama has independently verified the details of where Latifa was held.
The boat escape
Latifa, now 35, first tried to flee at 16 but it was only after contacting French businessman Herve Jaubert in 2011 that a long-planned escape was put into motion. This was done with the help of Ms Jauhiainen, initially her instructor for capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.
On 24 February 2018, Latifa and Ms Jauhiainen took an inflatable boat and jet ski to international waters, where Mr Jaubert was waiting in a US flagged yacht.
But eight days later, off India, the boat was boarded by commandos. Ms Jauhiainen says smoke grenades forced her and Latifa out of hiding in the bathroom below deck and they were held at gunpoint.
Latifa was returned to Dubai, and hadn’t been heard from since until now.
Ms Jauhiainen and the crew on the boat were freed after two weeks of detention in Dubai. The Indian government has never commented on its role.
Before her 2018 escape attempt, Latifa recorded another video which was posted on YouTube after her capture. “If you are watching this video, it’s not such a good thing, either I’m dead or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation,” she said.
It was this that sparked huge international concern and calls for her release. The UAE came under intense pressure to account for her and a meeting was arranged with Ms Robinson.