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Princess Latifa’s Eminent Legal Team meet with United Nations

The Free Latifa campaign is ramping up the pressure on the ruler of Dubai following last week’s dramatic court judgment in London, with the princess’s legal team calling on the United Nations to “urgently intervene” to ensure her safety.

Princess Latifa is still held captive by her father in Dubai, but her high-powered legal team based in London has filed a 76-page submission to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID).

The submission concludes, “Given the heightened and substantiated endangerment of Princess Latifa, we request the WGEID urgently intervene to guarantee Princess Latifa’s safety and welfare and to ensure that she is released immediately from being detained unlawfully in the UAE by the UAE authorities.”

The ruling by Sir Andrew McFarlane at England’s High Court included the findings that Latifa was kidnapped in 2018 and her father, the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, was not “open or honest” when trying to assure the world that Latifa was safe in his care.

Tiina Jauhiainen, the best friend of Latifa, and David Haigh, a human rights lawyer appointed by Princess Latifa and the co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign, together with Latifa’s wider legal team met with the WGEID at their 120th session in Geneva recently. The session saw Jauhiainen and Haigh give material new evidence to the working group relating to Latifa and her stepmothers Princess Haya and Sheikha Randa Al Banna.

Following the Geneva meeting, Latifa’s legal team, headed by leading international human rights lawyers Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC, filed a 76-page submission to WGEID and other UN agencies calling for the urgent intervention of the UN.

The WGEID was already investigating the legality of the storming of a US-registered yacht in the Indian Ocean on 4 March 2018 in which Emirati and Indian security forces captured Latifa and five other people, and forcibly took them back to Dubai. The other five on board were released, but Latifa has been held captive by her father, the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ever since.

After two years investigating the UAE’s treatment of Latifa – through a series of hearings to which Latifa’s lawyers and representatives of the Free Latifa campaign have contributed at every stage – the WGEID was close to ruling on the case. However, following the recent judgment at the family division of the British High Court in London, Jones and Dixon are asking the UN to consider evidence from the London hearing, which warrants that:

  • the WGEID’s investigation be given an urgent status
  • the UN promptly require the UAE authorities immediately to provide precise details of Latifa’s whereabouts
  • the UN promptly direct the UAE authorities to provide concrete and genuine guarantees for Latifa’s safety and welfare, including by providing immediate access to her, wherever she is held
  • all necessary steps are urgently initiated for the UN to intervene and protect Latifa from all violations of her human rights, in particular, to direct that she is released immediately by the UAE authorities from her captivity.

The submission also calls for the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to be part of the UN investigation alongside the WGEID.

Alun Jones said “We welcome the findings of Sir Andrew McFarlane relating to Princess Latifa. The judgment reflects the tireless work of Tiina Jauhiainen and David Haigh, whose efforts to free Princess Latifa and to assist Princess Haya been recognized by the High Court.

“It is a matter of grave concern that now that an English court has found that Princess Latifa and her sister Princess Shamsa have suffered from abduction, mistreatment and arbitrary imprisonment, the UK Government has nothing to say.

Rodney Dixon added “It is most concerning that despite the High Court judgment on 5 March 2020 finding that Princess Latifa had been kidnaped, and worldwide calls for the urgent release of Latifa, she remains in captivity. Her fundamental human rights are being unjustifiably restricted and abused. The international community can no longer stand by. 

“We are petitioning the UN Working Groups on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and on Arbitrary Detention and other bodies to get access to her without delay and to ensure that she is released unharmed.

It is vital more than ever now that the UN should take all necessary action to secure Latifa’s immediate release having been unlawfully held in the UAE for over two years.”

David Haigh said, “The judgment from the High Court in London was emphatic. It’s now crucial that this evidence, which has been tested and proved in one of the most esteemed legal systems in the world, is used to bring about real change, starting with guarantees about Latifa’s safety, and – within the shortest possible time and the right circumstances – her release from captivity.

“The wagons are now circling around the embattled regime in Dubai. In the few days since the London judgment, numerous people have indicated they will distance themselves from the toxic Al-Maktoum dynasty, including the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II. It’s now time for the UN to add its considerable weight to the fight against the human rights abuses being perpetrated by the UAE regime.”

The judge in the London case, Sir Andrew McFarlane, found that Latifa “was plainly desperate to extricate herself from her family and prepared to undertake a dangerous mission in order to do so” and that “there is no ground for doubting that it was indeed Latifa’s settled ambition to escape from Dubai.”

The court also found that the actions of Sheikh Mohammed “demonstrate a consistent course of conduct over two decades where, if he deems it necessary to do so, the father [Sheikh Mohammed] will use the very substantial powers at his disposal to achieve his particular aims” and that Sheikh Mohammed “continues to maintain a regime whereby both of these two young women [Latifa and her sister Shamsa] are deprived of their liberty, albeit within family accommodation in Dubai.”

The court ruled against Sheikh Mohammed in a custody battle he fought with his estranged wife Sheikha Haya over their two children. It found he had not been “open or honest” with the court over its assurances in January 2019 that Latifa was “safe and in the loving care of her family … and never has been arrested or detained.”

Tiina Jauhiainen said “The recent submission is the culmination of two years of dedicated hard work that began whilst I was still detained in the UAE national security jail after I was kidnaped alongside Latifa.

“David had, within hours of the kidnap of Latifa and myself, enlisted the help of the barrister Toby Cadman, who was luckily at the UN working on David’s own UN complaints against the UAE at the time. Within days of the kidnap, a press conference was given at the UN with Toby and David working around the clock to make a 22-page submission to the UN on 30 March 2018 calling for their urgent intervention.

“Since our initial submissions to the UN David and I have attended multiple sessions of the WGEID, most recently in Geneva with Latifa’s barrister Rodney Dixon in September 2019 and February 2020. It is to the UN that we now look to safeguard Latifa’s fundamental  human rights as set down in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, to secure her safety and her freedom.”


Notes to editors

The publication of the family court judgments comes just hours before the second anniversary of the storming by crack Emirati and Indian troops, under orders from Sheikh Mohammed, of the MS Nostromo, a private US-registered boat carrying Latifa and Tiina to safety in international waters. That act of state-sponsored violence took place on 4 March 2018, and the United Nations is still investigating the legal implications.

David Haigh was held for 22 months, most of it without charge, in a Dubai prison (2014-16). The former managing director of Leeds United was lured to Dubai to resolve a contractual dispute with his former employer, GFH of Bahrain (who owned Leeds Utd, 2012-15), thrown in jail before any negotiations could take place, and was only released after being raped, abused and tortured.

Tiina Jauhiainen was working in Dubai in 2010 when she met Latifa. The two became friends, and Tiina helped Latifa escape Dubai on 24 February 2018. Before they left, Latifa made a heart-rending 45-minute video that was to be published if her escape failed. It has been viewed by tens of millions worldwide since she was kidnapped by her father’s troops and forcibly taken back to Dubai.

About Free Latifa

Princess Latifa stands for every person, especially every woman, who is held against their will when they have done nothing wrong. The Free Latifa Campaign is run by Latifa’s family, closest friends, supporters and advisors. It is headed by Latifa’s best friend Tiina Jauhiainen as Campaign Director, a human rights lawyer and campaigner David Haigh, Latifa’s cousin Marcus Essabri, and Latifa’s close friends Stephania Martinengo and Marco Remes. The campaign also benefits from the support of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Detained International and a growing number of Latifa’s family, supporters, media, lawyers, politicians and celebrities around the world. The campaign is about positivity and love, we have one goal, to #FreeLatifa. Updates on the campaign can be found on www.freelatifa.com

Press Contact         

Tiina Jauhiainen and David Haigh

Campaign to Free Latifa

Email:                          latifa@freelatifa.com

Telephone:                  + 44 (0) 203 900 1188

Twitter:                       @freelatifa

Facebook:                    @freelatifa

Instagram:                   @freelatifa

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