HAIGH INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MEET WITH UNITED NATIONS FOR CLIENT PRINCESS LATIFA

Haigh International Justice and the Free Latifa campaign are 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.”

CALLS FOR SHEIKH MOHAMMED TO FACE JUSTICE OVER FAMILY ABDUCTION

UK judge ruled that ruler of Dubai orchestrated the abduction of daughters and intimidated his wife

Ministers, police, and prosecutors are under pressure to bring the ruler of Dubai to justice after a UK judge ruled that he orchestrated the abduction of two daughters – one from the streets of Cambridge.

The damning family court judgment naming Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is a friend of the Queen and one of the UK’s most important figures in horse-racing, risks destabilizing diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, a close Gulf ally.

His behavior was described by the judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, on the balance of probabilities as amounting to potentially breaking English and international law.

The ruling found that the police officer investigating the abduction of Princess Shamsa from Cambridge in 2000, when she was 19, was prevented from traveling to Dubai to pursue his criminal inquiries.

DCI David Beck of Cambridgeshire police was denied permission to fly out to the Gulf to interview “potential witnesses” after making a formal request to the Crown Prosecution Service, the ruling found. The Foreign Office refused to hand over its files on the case to the court.

The Guardian and other news organizations can reveal the ruling following months of private hearings and a legal dispute that reached the supreme court. It details an extraordinary family saga spanning 20 years during which the sheik, 70, organized international kidnappings, imprisoned both Shamsa and another daughter, Latifa, and “deprived [them] of their liberty”.

The princesses Shamsa (left) and Latifa Al-Maktoum (right).
 The princesses Shamsa (left) and Latifa Al-Maktoum (right). Composite: The Guardian/AP

  Princess Latifa, then 32, was seized by Indian army commandos from the Indian Ocean in 2018 after fleeing her home and was forcibly returned to Dubai.

Allegations of torture surfaced during the case. Latifa said she was exposed at one stage to “constant torture”, and the judgewhile he did not make any finding on that specific point, said he felt confident in relying upon her account. She claimed to have been kept in solitude in the dark and beaten repeatedly.

The sheik’s actions emerged after his sixth and youngest wife, Princess Haya, 45, fled to London last April with their two young children. His attempt to return the children to Dubai triggered a legal action in the family courts.

Haya resisted it with a counter-claim seeking a forced marriage protection order in respect of their daughter, alleging that the sheik was trying to marry her off to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. ‘MBS’, as he is better known, has been accused of involvement in the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The court did not find this allegation to be true.

The judgment raises questions about whether the Foreign Office blocked the police investigation into the disappearance of Shamsa after she had fled to Cambridge from Surrey in 2000. McFarlane said he was unable to make a determination because the Foreign Office refused to cooperate on freedom of information grounds.

Following the ruling, Labour’s shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, said: “This is clearly a shocking judgment. Both Priti Patel [the home secretary] and Dominic Raab [the foreign secretary] must urgently investigate why a criminal inquiry into a kidnap in Cambridge appears to have been impeded.”

David Haigh, the British lawyer for Princess Latifa, told the Guardian that he was sending the judgment to the United Nations’ working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, which is already investigating Latifa’s disappearance.

“We are delighted with the judgment,” he said. “It’s vindication for everything we have been saying, vindication for Shamsa, Latifa and Haya.”

Haigh said that he and Tiina Jauhiainen, Latifa’s close friend, had been interviewed at the end of last year by Cambridge police, who are still investigating Shamsa’s abduction. He added: “It is now clear to see why Sheikh Mohammed did not want these judgments to be made available to the world. They show him as someone unfit to be in charge of children, let alone a state that is an ally of the UK.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s behavior was first highlighted by a Guardian article in 2001, the judgment noted, adding that Haya read the story about Shamsa’s disappearance in 2016 but initially did not believe her husband was implicated.

Sheikh Mohammed is also the vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. He has fathered 25 children; his two with Haya are the youngest.

He refused to attend any of the multiple hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. His wife, Haya, was a constant presence in court, sitting alongside her solicitor, the prominent divorce lawyer Lady Shackleton.

The judgment goes into detail about the campaign of harassment endured by Haya. The judge accepted virtually all her allegations as true on the balance of probabilities, including that the sheik:

  • Attempted to have her abducted by helicopter.
  • Arranged for guns to be left in her bedroom.
  • Taunted her over her adulterous relationship with a bodyguard.
  • Divorced her without telling her.
  • Threatened to seize their children.
  • Published threatening poems about her online.

McFarlane finds that their relationship had deteriorated and that sometime in 2017 or 2018 she “embarked upon an adulterous relationship with one of her male bodyguards”.

In early 2019, Haya began to show interest in the fate of her husband’s daughters, Shamsa and Latifa. According to the judgment, the sheik began to make threats against her and in February, divorced her under sharia law without informing her. On 11 March that year, the judgment records, a helicopter landed near her compound in Dubai and the pilot told her he was going to take her to Awir, “a prison in the desert”.

Haya said that if her son had not been there and clung on to her leg, she would have been taken away. The judgment added: “Flight documents with respect to the helicopter have been disclosed and show that one of the crew was one of the three people named by Shamsa and [an employee of the sheik] as being involved in Shamsa’s removal from England in 2000.”

It continues: “Throughout this period the mother received a series of anonymous notes, left in her bedroom or elsewhere, making threats, for example, ‘We will take your son – your daughter is ours – your life is over’ or warning her to be careful … On two occasions in March 2019, the mother states that she found a gun left on her bed with the muzzle pointing towards the door and the safety catch off.”

In June, the sheik published a poem entitled You Lived and Died. Haya saw it as a direct threat to her and a public announcement of her “betrayal”.

The poem stated: “You traitor, you betrayed the most precious trust. I exposed you and your games … I have the evidence that convicts you of what you have done … You know your actions are an insult … Let’s see if mischief brings you benefits, I care not whether you live or die.”

McFarlane’s judgment explains that his ruling “may well involve findings, albeit on the civil standard, of behavior which is contrary to the criminal law of England and Wales, international law, international maritime law, and internationally accepted human rights norms”.

The civil standard is a conclusion made on the balance of probabilities; that is, the allegation is more likely than not to be true. It is not a finding to the criminal standard, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.

McFarlane ends his judgment saying: “These findings, taken together, 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.”

The sheik has denied all the allegations against him. In a statement issued to the media, he said: “This case concerns highly personal and private matters relating to our children. The appeal was made to protect the best interests and welfare of the children. The outcome does not protect my children from media attention in the way that other children in family proceedings in the UK are protected.

“As a head of government, I was not able to participate in the court’s fact-finding process. This has resulted in the release of a ‘fact-finding’ judgment which inevitably tells only one side of the story. I ask that the media respect the privacy of our children and do not intrude into their lives in the UK.”

Neither the Foreign Office, Crown Prosecution Service nor Cambridgeshire police commented.

Haigh International Justice WELCOMES FAMILY COURT JUDGMENTS ON HRH PRINCESS HAYA AND CLIENT PRINCESS LATIFA

Commenting on the publication of the two-family court judgements in the case of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and his estranged wife HRH Princess Haya bint Hussein, David Haigh, human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign said:

“It is now clear to see why Sheikh Mohammed did not want these judgements to be made available to the world. They show him as someone unfit to be in charge of children, let alone a state that is an ally of the UK. Much as it is a tragedy for the two children, he has with Princess Haya, it must also be a massive relief for her family to know they can continue their childhood without the malign presence that their father clearly presented.

“Only three weeks ago Tiina and I were at the United Nations in Geneva with Latifa’s Legal team, assisting the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances with their two-year-long investigation into the disappearance of Princess Latifa. It was clear then that the judgments in the case of Princess Haya would be key to the freedom of Latifa and we are pleased that the judgments can now be seen by the United Nations. We now call on the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary disappearances to bring their investigations to a conclusion and call for the immediate release of Latifa.

 

“We also call on the world, certainly anyone who has any dealings with Dubai, to use whatever influence they have as leverage to end this brutal and corrupt regimes abuse of human rights. That includes Queen Elizabeth II, who is a friend of Sheikh Mohammed through their shared love of horse racing. It also includes Ivanka Trump, Theresa May and Mary Robinson, all of whom have allowed themselves to be sucked into Sheikh Mohammed’s evil web and betray the cause of women’s equality. Now would be a very good time for all three to show some humility, apologise for supping with the Dubai regime, and distance themselves from it.

“The eyes of the world are now on Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates as we await freedom for Latifa”

Tiina Jauhiainen who accompanied Latifa on her attempted escape from Dubai from 24 February to 4 March 2018, added:

“I am obviously delighted with the publication of the judgements, but at the same time, it is a very sad day for humanity. A father has been seen to mistreat and take advantage of his children and his wife. After everything that has happened with Sheikh Mohammed’s children and wives over the decades, we should not be surprised, but it’s still very sad when we have to take note of his depraved actions who have every reason to know better.

 

“The judgements throw additional light on the situation of Latifa. It gives us an idea of what her father is capable of and adds further credence to the video she recorded in February 2018.”

Notes to editors

The publication of the family court judgements 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 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

DAVID HAIGH AND TIINA JAUHIAINEN DISCUSS 2ND ANNIVERSARY OF ESCAPE OF HAIGH INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE CLIENT PRINCESS LATIFA

By David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen, co-founders of the Free Latifa campaign

The 24th of February 2020 marks the second anniversary of the attempt by Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum to flee the captivity of her father, the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It’s an anniversary we should celebrate because it denotes the moment a spirited young woman finally emerged from family incarceration an astonishing concept in the 21st century.

Anniversaries are strange things. They allow us to look back to a specific moment and analyze at its significance, which may not have been apparent at the time. In this context, the question arises as to whether we should be celebrating the anniversary of Latifa’s escape from Dubai (24 February), or the end of her freedom eight days later (4 March) when the boat she was on was stormed by troops under instructions from her father, and she was kidnapped and brought back to captivity in Dubai. The former is the happier event, but the latter is of far greater importance.

In the two years since that fateful night off the west coast of India (and we speak with knowledge of the storming of the MS Nostromo as one of us was actually there and the other helping in the background recording and reporting events), we have effectively won the argument. The United Nations has accepted Latifa’s capture as a de facto example of enforced disappearance, even though it is still working on its final response in the case. Eminent television companies have made documentaries on the abuse of Latifa’s human rights. And an ill-judged visit by the former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson to try and “offer support to Latifa and her family” has been roundly criticized as aiding a regime to ride roughshod over basic human rights.

In addition, Sheikh Mohammed himself has been the subject of anti-molestation orders filed after his latest wife, Sheikha Haya, fled Dubai with their two children and sought divorce and custody in a London court, it was widely reported the reason for her fleeing was in the most part what she learned about the fate of Princess Latifa. Other members of his family have spoken out, including Latifa’s Cousin Marcus Essabri, a fellow Dubai palace resident and notably his first wife Randa Al Banna, who has been denied access to her daughter for more than 40 years because she had the audacity to divorce Sheikh Mohammed. And we know of more cases of abused members and those close to the family who are unable to speak out, so we won’t name them.

And yet in 21st-century geopolitics, winning the argument isn’t enough. Sheikh Mohammed and his decaying regime have not only denied Latifa, her full-sister Shamsa and other members of his family the rights of self-determination they seek. He has doled out his millions to get prominent names to act as cover for his perfidy, notably the inducements undoubtedly paid to Ivanka Trump, Theresa May and various other names who were lured to Dubai earlier this month to attend a women’s empowerment conference. The money was spent to disseminate the message that Dubai is at the forefront of efforts to promote women’s rights and chances – a more honest image would have been appointing Count Dracula to run Dubai’s blood transfusion agency.

The fact that prominent people are willing to sup with the devil illustrates how hard the campaign to free Latifa is. There are not just financial resources backing the captivity of Latifa and others, there are psychological resources too.

We will eventually get there. The English High Court in the case of Princess is widely expected to issue a judgment against the Dubai ruler, the UN may deliver a ruling on the kidnapping of Latifa. If one or both of these happen not even the tone-deaf regime in Dubai can ignore and if they do will the ruling emirate of Abu Dhabi. It would be lovely if a leading international figure would issue an ultimatum that Dubai will not be welcome while the daughter of the ruler is held against her will. An obvious person to do that would be the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who is a good friend of Sheikh Mohammed through their shared love of horses; her style would be to do it quietly, telling him that he will not be welcome at the prestigious Royal Ascot horse-racing meeting this year if Latifa is still in captivity. We are not holding our breath, but stranger things have happened.

Ultimately our fight goes on, and for two reasons. Firstly, it is the right thing to do. Latifa has expressed a very clear desire to travel outside Dubai and as long as she takes responsibility for her decisions that is her internationally recognized right and one which Latifa’s half-sister Sheikha Manal, flanked by Ivanka Trump and Theresa May preached this month at the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai. Secondly, this is not just about Latifa but about all women in the Gulf. Women are still treated as second-class citizens throughout the region – we cannot change that overnight, but by taking a high-profile example like Latifa, we can use her case to force change for all women subjected to the oppression of male guardianship laws.

The fight goes on at great cost to ourselves, but we know that millions of people around the world are behind Latifa and supporting our campaign for her freedom. We are immensely grateful for all the support, as we are sure it is Latifa. We cannot promise when we will achieve success, or whether we will be ‘celebrating’ more 24 February and 4 March anniversaries. But we will not rest until Latifa is free, and the rights of women in the Gulf started to improve.

David Haigh is a human rights lawyer who was jailed without charge in Dubai in 2014 and was held for a total of 22 months. Tiina Jauhiainen became a close friend of Latifa while working in Dubai and was with her when she escaped in February 2018; she now works for the Free Latifa campaign in the UK and Finland.

About Free Latifa: PrincessLatifa 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, 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

2ND ANNIVERSARY OF THE ESCAPE FROM DUBAI OF PRINCESS LATIFA

You win the argument, yet the battle still goes on!

By David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen, co-founders of the Free Latifa campaign

The 24th of February 2020 marks the second anniversary of the attempt by Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum to flee the captivity of her father, the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It’s an anniversary we should celebrate because it denotes the moment a spirited young woman finally emerged from family incarceration an astonishing concept in the 21st century.

Anniversaries are strange things. They allow us to look back to a specific moment and analyze it at its significance, which may not have been apparent at the time. In this context, the question arises as to whether we should be celebrating the anniversary of Latifa’s escape from Dubai (24 February), or the end of her freedom eight days later (4 March) when the boat she was on was stormed by troops under instructions from her father, and she was kidnapped and brought back to captivity in Dubai. The former is the happier event, but the latter is of far greater importance.

In the two years since that fateful night off the west coast of India (and we speak with knowledge of the storming of the MS Nostromo as one of us was actually there and the other helping in the background recording and reporting events), we have effectively won the argument. The United Nations has accepted Latifa’s capture as a de facto example of enforced disappearance, even though it is still working on its final response in the case. Eminent television companies have made documentaries on the abuse of Latifa’s human rights. And an ill-judged visit by the former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson to try and “offer support to Latifa and her family” has been roundly criticized as aiding a regime to ride roughshod over basic human rights.

In addition, Sheikh Mohammed himself has been the subject of anti-molestation orders filed after his latest wife, Sheikha Haya, fled Dubai with their two children and sought divorce and custody in a London court, it was widely reported the reason for her fleeing was in the most part what she learned about the fate of Princess Latifa. Other members of his family have spoken out, including Latifa’s Cousin Marcus Essabri, a fellow Dubai palace resident and notably his first wife Randa Al Banna, who has been denied access to her daughter for more than 40 years because she had the audacity to divorce Sheikh Mohammed. And we know of more cases of abused members and those close to the family who are unable to speak out, so we won’t name them.

And yet in 21st-century geopolitics, winning the argument isn’t enough. Sheikh Mohammed and his decaying regime have not only denied Latifa, her full-sister Shamsa and other members of his family the rights of self-determination they seek. He has doled out his millions to get prominent names to act as cover for his perfidy, notably the inducements undoubtedly paid to Ivanka Trump, Theresa May and various other names who were lured to Dubai earlier this month to attend a women’s empowerment conference. The money was spent to disseminate the message that Dubai is at the forefront of efforts to promote women’s rights and chances – a more honest image would have been appointing Count Dracula to run Dubai’s blood transfusion agency.

The fact that prominent people are willing to sup with the devil illustrates how hard the campaign to free Latifa is. There are not just financial resources backing the captivity of Latifa and others, there are psychological resources too.

We will eventually get there. The English High Court in the case of Princess is widely expected to issue a judgment against the Dubai ruler, the UN may deliver a ruling on the kidnapping of Latifa. If one or both of these happen not even the tone-deaf regime in Dubai can ignore and if they do will the ruling emirate of Abu Dhabi. It would be lovely if a leading international figure would issue an ultimatum that Dubai will not be welcome while the daughter of the ruler is held against her will. An obvious person to do that would be the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who is a good friend of Sheikh Mohammed through their shared love of horses; her style would be to do it quietly, telling him that he will not be welcome at the prestigious Royal Ascot horse-racing meeting this year if Latifa is still in captivity. We are not holding our breath, but stranger things have happened.

Ultimately our fight goes on, and for two reasons. Firstly, it is the right thing to do. Latifa has expressed a very clear desire to travel outside Dubai and as long as she takes responsibility for her decisions that is her internationally recognized right and one which Latifa’s half-sister Sheikha Manal, flanked by Ivanka Trump and Theresa May preached this month at the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai. Secondly, this is not just about Latifa but about all women in the Gulf. Women are still treated as second-class citizens throughout the region – we cannot change that overnight, but by taking a high-profile example like Latifa, we can use her case to force change for all women subjected to the oppression of male guardianship laws.

The fight goes on at great cost to ourselves, but we know that millions of people around the world are behind Latifa and supporting our campaign for her freedom. We are immensely grateful for all the support, as we are sure it is Latifa. We cannot promise when we will achieve success, or whether we will be ‘celebrating’ more 24 February and 4 March anniversaries. But we will not rest until Latifa is free, and the rights of women in the Gulf started to improve.

David Haigh is a human rights lawyer who was jailed without charge in Dubai in 2014 and was held for a total of 22 months. Tiina Jauhiainen became a close friend of Latifa while working in Dubai and was with her when she escaped in February 2018; she now works for the Free Latifa campaign in the UK and Finland.

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

TRUMP AND MAY ACCUSED OF ‘BETRAYING WOMEN’ BY ATTENDING DUBAI CONFERENCE

The Free Latifa campaign has slammed the “staggering hypocrisy” of this week’s Global Women’s Forum in Dubai and accused Ivanka Trump and Theresa May of betraying the cause of women by attending the high-profile event.

Around 3,000 delegates listened to 100 speakers at the two-day gathering, including the US president’s daughter cum adviser, and the former British prime minister. Yet they were merely there to take part in “the latest publicity stunt designed to distract from Dubai’s quite appalling treatment of women,” according to the co-founder of the campaign to free the ruler of Dubai’s daughter from forced captivity.

The event took place just days before the second anniversary of the attempt by Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum, one of the two dozen children of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to escape what she describes as the “gilded cage” of her life in Dubai. And it was hosted by a woman who herself has been the victim of Dubai’s outdated treatment of women.

David Haigh, the human rights lawyer who co-founded the Free Latifa campaign, said: “Ivanka Trump and Theresa May have betrayed the cause of women by attending this charade in Dubai. They, or whoever is advising them, have no regard for the way Dubai treats women. It is merely the latest publicity stunt designed to distract from the country’s quite appalling treatment of women.

“This is the state-run by a man who locks up his daughters if they show any dissent and appears to abuse his wives, given that both his first and last ex-wife have made allegations against him. Our whole campaign is based on helping one of his daughters gain the freedom she seized in a daring escape in February 2018, only to be thwarted by his troops who stormed the boat she was on in international waters off India. And there are countless other family members – daughters, wives and nieces and nephews – who have had their human rights abused, yet a supposedly pro-women conference under Sheikh Mohammed’s patronage is supported by two women the world looks to for a lead!

“It’s a remarkable error of judgment by both women, on a par with the misjudgment made by the former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson when she allowed herself to be used for publicity purposes by Sheikh Mohammed in December 2018.”

Promotional material for the conference quotes Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of the UAE Gender Balance Council and another of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters, as saying. “The UAE is today reaping the benefits of a development journey set in motion by its wise leadership, who believed in women’s capabilities and the importance of their role in society.

“The UAE provides an inspirational model for the empowerment and socio-economic participation of women. The country has created a highly supportive environment for women to enhance their contributions to society. The global community’s recognition of these remarkable achievements has led to the UAE becoming a venue for the world’s largest events focused on women’s empowerment and advancement.”

Haigh added, “This is staggering hypocrisy, coming from a woman who is not allowed to see her mother because she divorced Sheikh Mohammed. Her mother went public just two months ago to say she would love to see her daughter again, but Sheikh Mohammed has prevented it for 40 years, and here is Manal praising to high heaven the UAE’s treatment of women!

Tiina Jauhiainen, the close friend of Princess Latifa, and kidnaped alongside her in March 2018 added “Clearly Manal has been told what to say, and one can only feel sorry for her. But Ivanka Trump and Theresa May have not – they have knowingly and willingly played into the UAE’s hands with its brazen PR game, and added credibility to all the bogus statements about the Emirates promoting women’s empowerment. In doing so, both women have tarnished their reputations as inspirations who other women look up to.”

Several of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters remain incarcerated against their will in Dubai. Latifa has been enforced disappeared, presumably locked in jail since her father’s troops kidnapped her at gunpoint on 4 March 2018 following her escape attempt. Her full-sister Shamsa seemingly remains in a similar situation after her attempted escape and kidnapping off the streets of Cambridge in 2000. And Manal is married to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister and owner of Manchester City Football Club, but she has not been allowed to see her own mother Sheikha Randa Al Banna for over four decades.

In December 2018, the former Irish president and UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson visited Dubai and was photographed with Latifa in an attempt by the Dubai royal family to show Latifa was being cared for by her family. Robinson was heavily criticized for her visit and has yet to comment further. Haigh added, “The only positive spin anyone can put on Robinson’s reputation from this publicity stunt gone bad is that her involvement was somehow part of a wider plan to assist Princess Haya to flee Dubai with her children, and possibly Latifa. Until she says anything to confirm this, we have to be dubious about what’s left of her reputation as a women’s rights defender.”

Last year Sheikh Mohammed’s latest wife Sheikha Haya fled Dubai with their two children, issued a non-molestation order against Sheikh Mohammed, and is seeking custody of the children in a London court.

The Free Latifa campaign was set up by David Haigh and Tiina Jauhiainen, the Finnish national who helped Latifa escape from Dubai and who was kidnaped and taken to Dubai at gunpoint. She was held in Dubai in its national security jail without charge and subjected to inhumane treatment, but, unlike Latifa, was later released.

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

FREELATIFA TEAM ATTEND HIGH COURT AS CUSTODY HEARING OF DUBAI RULERS CHILDREN CONCLUDES

In a week that saw the United Arab Emirates kick off its “World Tolerance Summit,” the FreeLatifa team attended the High Court for the final hearings in the High Court battle over the children of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Tiina Jauhiainen (Princess Latifa’s best friend and the FreeLatifa campaign director), Marcus Essabri (Latifa’s cousin) and Latifa’s human rights lawyer and founder of the free Latifa campaign David Haigh entered the famous Royal Courts of `justice shortly after the arrival of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya, the stepmother of Princess Latifa.

Princess Haya attended the High Court on Monday 11th November 2019 and throughout the week, her estranged husband Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed did not. The Dubai ruler has failed to attend any of the English court hearings to date, on a previous hearing date the Sheikh was in the United Kingdom but chooses to ignore the hearing and was seen purchasing racehorses instead.

The High Court is expected to issue its judgement in early December 2019, a decision that is likely to have significant implications for the fate of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, currently held against her will in arbitrary detention in Dubai for more than 21 months. Now the subject of a United Nations investigation, Princess Latifa and her friend Tiina Jauhiainen were kidnapped at gunpoint on the Dubai rulers’ instructions in March 2018 from their boat off the coast of India. Latifa’s brave escape attempt and tortious life is now the subject of an Amnesty International award-winning BBC documentary Escape from Dubai watched by tens of millions around the world.

Whilst the High Court hearing began, the Sheikh was accused of “gross hypocrisy” over his stance on human rights after he issued a statement on his Twitter account in Arabic that stated:

During the meeting, we adopted a policy to protect the family. We have adopted mechanisms to protect, intervene and prevent all kinds of domestic violence. In the UAE, we do not tolerate any kind of harm towards a young child, an elder, or a weak woman.

David Haigh, a human rights lawyer representing Princess Latifa said “simply put the Dubai ruler is a Human rights abuser that believes he and his swathes of ever-changing propaganda churning PR firms, many from the UK, can fool the world. Thankfully, the facade of Dubai and the UAE as a safe and tolerant place has fallen and the world now sees the gross hypocrisy of this dangerous man, his Emirate and country.

The Free Latifa campaign will issue a press release immediately after the judgement is able to be reported on, setting out what it means for Latifa’s case and any others affected by the ruling. This will include quotes from Latifa’s cousin, Marcus Essabri, her human rights lawyer David Haigh and the Free Latifa campaign director and Latifa’s best friend Tiina Jauhiainen and Latifa’s legal team including Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC.

Due to court reporting restrictions, we are prevented from commenting on the reasons why the Free Latifa team attended court. However, if you would like a quote for use before the judgement, please quote David Haigh as saying: “We will be watching the High Court’s judgement very closely. The case will tell us a lot about how an independent court judges Sheikh Mohammed’s ability to deal respectfully and appropriately with his children and with others. Any condemnation by the court will strengthen the case for the immediate release of Latifa and further highlight his countries grave human rights abuses, presided over by the Dubai ruler himself. That in turn, will act as a shot in the arm to all women in the Gulf who are victims of the slavery of Gulf women that is male guardianship.”

 

UAE PREACHES TOLERANCE, PRACTICES HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE

In a week that saw the United Arab Emirates kick off its “World Tolerance Summit” the FreeLatifa team the FreeLatifa campaign joined by over 20 leading NGOs signed an open letter calling on attendees to boycott the summit. The NGOs, lawyers and human rights defenders included PEN International, David Haigh, Michael Mansfield QC, barrister Detained International, Association for Victims of Torture in the UAE, Alkarama, Jonathan Emmett, author, International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE, International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders, MENA Rights Group and Matthew Hedges.

The UAE’s ‘World Tolerance Summit’, supposedly intended to ‘focus on how education and knowledge-sharing can be a powerful tool to raise awareness on tolerance in diversity.’

However, it is clear that the UAE is less concerned with the principle of tolerance than it is with its carefully manipulated image as a global touristic and economic hub. As stated in the open letter calling for a boycott of the Summit, ‘the UAE Government devotes more effort to concealing its human rights abuses than to addressing them.’

In fact, it is clear that the UAE has devoted even more time to opposing tolerance entirely, with a report in The New York Times showing how the UAE attempted to install spyware on the computers of 1,100 dissidents and journalists.

A prescient example of this intolerance can be seen in award-winning human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, currently serving a 10-year sentence for ‘insulting the UAE, it’s status and prestige’ on social media. Detained simply for a series of tweets critical of the regime, his imprisonment has drawn international condemnation, and in October 2019 a total of 142 NGOs joined forces in calling for his immediate release from al-Sadr prison.

The UAE’s systematic quelling of freedom of expression, and its role in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, should leave no doubt that the World Tolerance Summit is little more than a thin veneer intended to obscure the reality of Emirati life.

David Haigh, a human rights lawyer representing Princess Latifa said “simply put the UAE has one of the most intolerant Governments in the world today. Until such time that the country respects the most basic of human rights and stops locking up innocent victims of injustice, ex-pats and Emiratis alike, it has no place using talking about human rights and tolerance. The only thing the UAE is tolerant of is intolerance.”

Tiina Jauhiainen Campaign Director for FreeLatifa said “my best friend Latifa is currently detained in arbitrary detention against her will, her father the ruler of Dubai was not tolerant of her simple wish to be free, for self-determination. There is no tolerance for women’s rights or other rights in the UAE. The attendees should reconsider their support, and I offer my time and first-hand experience to educate them of the reality of the intolerant UAE”.

APPENDIX 1

“Don’t’ whitewash the UAE’s gross human rights abuses”: NGOs call on World Tolerance Summit speakers to cancel their participation

World Tolerance Summit taking place in Dubai on November 13 and 14 to withdraw from the event, which promotes a misleading image of the United Arab Emirates as a model of tolerance and openness. This is the second World Tolerance Summit, initiated in 2018 to “strengthen the UAE’s position as a model of co-existence and cultural tolerance around the world.”

There has been a clampdown on fundamental human rights and freedoms. The authorities have prosecuted and imprisoned political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists, and critics, and systematically silenced peaceful dissenting voices, to such an extent that today, freedom of speech and civic space are virtually non-existent in the country. In a recent statement, seven United Nations independent experts expressed grave concern over the situation of imprisoned human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for “insulting the ‘status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols’ including its leaders” in reprisal for his peaceful activism.

We also wish to inform you that in October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution, calling on the UAE, among others, to stop all forms of harassment and immediately lift the travel ban against human rights defenders, and urging the authorities to “guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in the UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities, both inside and outside the country, without fear of reprisals”.

8,000 civilian deaths through direct targeting alone expressed their concern over the active role of the UAE in this conflict and indiscriminate attacks by the UAE and other parties to the conflict against hospitals, water facilities, markets, and other civilian spaces. They strongly condemned all parties to the conflict for blocking access to humanitarian aid and the use of starvation as a weapon of war, which amount to war crimes. Save the Children estimated that 85,000children under the age of five have starved to death as a result of the conflict so far. The Group of UN experts also condemned the systematic use of enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial executions by parties to the conflict.

Regrettably, the UAE Government devotes more effort to conceal its human rights abuses than to addressing them and invests heavily in the funding and sponsorship of institutions, events, and initiatives that are aimed at projecting a favourable image to the outside world. The Tolerance Summit is yet another tool in the UAE’s campaign to “whitewash” its human rights record.

In light of the above, we urge you to reconsider your participation in the Summit. By promoting the UAE as “the global capital for tolerance” while hundreds are imprisoned for having peacefully expressed their opinion, you will contribute to silencing their voices.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS FOR RELEASE OF DUBAI PRINCESS

Leading international human rights charity Amnesty International will join the #FreeLatifa campaign to present a petition with almost 17.000 signatories to the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Helsinki calling for the immediate release of the Dubai Princess.

Almost 17.000 people in Finland have signed an Amnesty International petition with a further 15,000 plus signing a similar Change.org petition in the United Kingdom demanding freedom for Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai who is being held against her will in arbitrary detention in Dubai.

The petition will be handed to the United Arab Emirates in Helsinki at a demonstration organized by Amnesty International’s Finnish section on Wednesday 16 October 2019 in Helsinki.

During the demonstration, participants will be holding gilded cages as a metaphor of Latifa’s life in Dubai.

“For many of the women in Dubai, their country is a gilded cage – enormous in wealth yet tiny in freedom,” says Frank Johansson, the director of Amnesty’s Finnish section.

Princess Latifa tried to escape from Dubai in February 2018 but her boat was stormed by Emirati and Indian troops in international waters. Latifa was taken at gunpoint back to Dubai with her friend, Finnish national Tiina Jauhiainen and has not been heard from since.

Tiina Jauhiainen who will join the demonstration in Helsinki, said “I am humbled and forever grateful to the wonderful people of Finland who have not only supported myself in this horrific breach of my human rights when I was kidnapped by the UAE and India at gunpoint alongside my friend Latifa. Also, and perhaps, more importantly, they have stood up for my friend Latifa and her simple dream to be free from abuse, torture and have the right to self-determination, as we here in Finland are fortunate to have”

In September 2019 the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, at a hearing at their 119th session in Geneva, confirmed that they continue to investigate the case of Princess Latifa, having taken on Princess Latifa’s case In April 2018.

Princess Latifa’s London-based lawyer Rodney Dixon QC said:“We are deeply concerned about Princess Latifa’s safety and well-being. Our concerns have only escalated following the decision by Latifa’s stepmother, Princess Haya to flee Dubai with her two children because she fears for her life. We understand that Princess Haya’s decision was strongly influenced by what she had learned to be the truth about her stepdaughter’s treatment.”

TOP HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS GIVE EVIDENCE TO UN TO FREE PRINCESS LATIFA

Two of the UK’s top Human Rights QC’s have stepped up the legal campaign to highlight the plight of imprisoned Princess Latifa in Dubai by providing crucial new evidence on her behalf to the UN in Geneva this week.

Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC, representing Princess Latifa, have made a special appeal to the UN to take urgent action to protect her and get her released without delay. These initiatives come at a critical time when Latifa’s stepmother Princess Haya has left her Prime Minister husband, Latifa’s father Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and fled Dubai for London with her two children. Princess Haya is presently bringing proceedings in the High Court in London against her husband to retain custody over her children.

The government of the UAE has submitted a statement to the UN denying that Princess Latifa has been detained. The UAE’s response claimed that Latifa is alive, safe and with her family in Dubai.

Princess Latifa’s lawyers have highlighted to the UN that the UAE’s response is unfounded. Princess Latifa’s London-based lawyer Rodney Dixon QC said: “In light of the available evidence, the claims of the UAE authorities are completely unsubstantiated. If they were true, why has Princess Latifa not been allowed freely to leave the UAE and travel? Why is no one permitted to have access to her at her request? She has not been seen in public for over 18 months.

“We are therefore deeply concerned about her safety and well-being. Our concerns have only escalated following the decision by Princess Haya to flee Dubai with her two children because she fears for her life. We understand that Princess Haya’s decision was strongly influenced by what she had learned to be the truth about her step-daughter’s treatment.”

The lawyers are urging the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), which is currently meeting in Geneva to promptly require the UAE authorities to provide precise details of Princess Latifa’s whereabouts, to offer concrete and genuine guarantees for her safety and welfare by providing immediate access to her, and to protect her from all violations of human rights and require that she is released immediately by the UAE. They are also asking that this case is independently investigated by the UAE authorities and the UN so that those responsible for human rights violations can be held to account.

Princess Haya’s recent escape is also significant as she had previously invited former Irish President Mary Robinson to visit Princess Latifa in Dubai in December 2018. The meeting was widely criticized as a publicity stunt aimed at convincing the outside world that Princess Latifa was in good health and happiness in the UAE, a country she spent almost two decades trying to escape. Now that Princess Haya has herself fled the UAE, it further confirms that this visit was a sham designed to hide the truth about Princess Latifa’s situation.

David Haigh, a human rights lawyer who runs the Free Latifa campaign with Tiina Jauhiainen and Latifa’s cousin Marcus Essabri, said: “This is a very significant moment for Latifa. The UAE has some most difficult questions to answer and cannot simply ignore such an esteemed organization as the UN. The UN is evidently not convinced by Dubai’s use of smoke, mirrors and PR stunts, to cover up a brutal, violent kidnap of a young woman, her friend, and crew. It’s now some 18 months since we first complained to the UN, and despite all the mirages Dubai has created, those investigations continue, and we hope for a positive outcome very soon.”

Tiina Jauhiainen, the Finnish best friend of Princess Latifa, who was kidnapped alongside Latifa, 18 months ago said “ After attending the UN today with David and Rodney and meeting for the second time this year with the WGEID, we really believe and hope this could be a vital step to finally winning the freedom of Latifa. The world will be watching closely.”