UN experts have called on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to provide information about a daughter of Dubai’s ruler and release her, more than two months after she said she was being held against her will at a barricaded villa in the Persian Gulf country.
“We are alarmed that, following the public release in February of footage in which Sheikha Latifa reported being deprived of her liberty against her will, and the subsequent official request for further information on her situation, no concrete information has been provided by the authorities,” the independent UN human rights experts said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The experts — who include the UN investigators on torture and on violence against women — added, “The statement issued by the Emirates authorities’ merely indicating that she was being ‘cared for at home’ is not sufficient at this stage.”
The experts called “for independent verification of the conditions under which she is being held, and for her immediate release.”
The UN experts also raised concerns with the Emirati government about Princess Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum’s “alleged enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention.”
“Her continued incommunicado detention can have harmful physical and psychological consequences and may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” they said in the statement.
Back in February, 35-year-old Sheikha Latifa said in a video broadcast by the BBC’s investigative news program Panorama that she was being held “hostage” in a locked villa surrounded by police.
“I am a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail,” she said at the time. “All the windows are barred shut, I can’t open any window.”
The UAE princess said she was making the video in the bathroom of the villa, which is the only room she could lock herself into.
Appearing alert and speaking calmly, Latifa said in the video that there were police officers stationed outside and inside the villa. “I just want to be free,” she noted.
The UN says the UAE has failed to provide compelling proof that Sheikha Latifa — last seen in late 2018 — is still alive.
On April 9, UN spokesperson Marta Hurtado told a briefing in Geneva that the UAE had not responded to its request or clarified the conditions in which Latifa was apparently being held.
“We haven’t got any proof of life, and we would like one, one that is clear compelling evidence that she is alive. Our first concern of course is to be sure of that, that she is still alive,” Hurtado said.
Princess Latifa drew international attention in 2018, when she announced in a video that she was fleeing the UAE because of mistreatment and restrictions imposed by her family.
However, a source close to the Dubai government said on April 17 that year that the runaway princess “was brought back” to the Persian Gulf state.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited a witness as saying that authorities in the UAE had “intercepted Sheikha Latifa on March 4, 2018, as she tried to flee by sea to a third country, and returned her to the UAE.”