A UN body on enforced disappearances has communicated to India on the case of one of the daughters of Dubai’s ruler, who was allegedly kidnapped in March aboard a US-flagged yacht off the Indian coast while attempting to flee from the UAE.
Princess Sheikha Latifa is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the prime minister of the UAE. She is one of the 30 children who tried to escape in March after complaining she was effectively being held prisoner by her repressive father.
She fled across the border to Oman with the help of a friend, before boarding a boat to meet French national Herve Jaubert, who had himself managed to successfully escape the Emirates in 2010.
The boat set sail for the Indian coast but was intercepted by three Indian and two Emirati warships – with Jaubert claiming he and his crew were beaten by commandos before Latifa was whisked away, The Telegraph reported.
There was no immediate comment from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Coast Guard.
The Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in its report dated August 16, 2018 on ‘Communications, cases examined, observations and other activities’, said it has transmitted to India a copy of the case of Latifa.
It said on May 2, 2018, the Working Group, under its urgent action procedure, transmitted to the Government of the UAE the case of Latifa “allegedly kidnapped on March 4, 2018 aboard a United States-flagged yacht, off the Indian coast while attempting to flee from Dubai, by Indian military and security services, as well as coast guards, and reportedly handed over to the authorities of the UAE”.
The report added “her fate and whereabouts remain unknown”.
An email to the Geneva-based Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances seeking comment on the case was not immediately answered.
Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement in May this year, said that the UAE authorities had intercepted Latifa in March as she tried to flee by sea to a third country, and returned her to the UAE.
Latifa had told friends that she wished to flee restrictions imposed by her family, the rights group said.
The group said Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish citizen and a former Dubai resident for 17 years, told it that she met Latifa in 2010 and developed a long-term friendship with her.
Jauhiainen said she and Latifa left the UAE on February 24. Later that day, they joined Jaubert on his private boat, sailing toward southeast Asia.
Jauhiainen said that on March 4 the boat stopped 50 miles off the coast of Goa, according to the HRW statement.
“She was told about the location by Jaubert. At around 10 pm she and Latifa were below deck when they heard shouting and gunfire and locked themselves in the bathroom. The cabin filled with gas, forcing them onto the deck,” it said.
Jauhiainen said that she saw several boats around their boat. Men boarded their boat, pointed guns at her, forced her to the ground, and tied her hands behind her back, according to the HRW statement.
She said the men kept shouting in English, “Who is Latifa?”, adding that she later heard Latifa, whom she could not see, trying to break free and repeatedly shouting that she wanted to claim asylum.
She said the men removed Latifa from the boat, the statement said. It appeared that Jaubert and the crew had been mistreated, Jauhiainen said, describing Jaubert’s face as “bloody” and “unrecognisable”.
Jauiainen told the Human Rights Watch that the Indian Coast Guard participated in the raid in coordination with the UAE authorities.
The Working Group was established by the then UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives.
On the other hand, the Dubai government in a statement said that Latifa was with her family. “Her Highness Sheikha Latifa is now safe in Dubai,” read a statement released on Thursday by Dubai’s Royal Court.
“She and her family are looking forward to celebrating her birthday today (sic), in privacy and peace, and to building a happy and stable future for her,” The Telegraph quoted the statement as saying.
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