Monday 26 August 2019

'A troubled young woman' - Mary Robinson on meeting with 'missing' Dubai princess

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, a daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, left, meets Mary Robinson
Photo: (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation via AP)
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, a daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, left, meets Mary Robinson Photo: (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation via AP)
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, left, meets Mary Robinson (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation via AP)
Jane Last

Jane Last

Former Irish President Mary Robinson has described a “missing” Arab princess – the welfare of whom sparked massive concern amongst human rights groups following a failed attempt to escape the UAE – as a “troubled young woman” who is in the “loving care of her family”.

Mrs Robinson – a former UN Commissioner for Human Rights -  met with Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum (33) - the daughter of the billionaire ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – on December 15 last.

Photographs of their meeting were issued by the UAE government a week later.

Speaking to BBC’s ‘Today’ programme this morning, Mrs Robinson said her good friend Princess Haya asked her to meet with her step daughter Latifah to help with a “family dilemma”.

"I was asked by Princess Haya, who I've known for a long time, who's also married to the ruler of Dubai [Latifa’s father], she's not directly related to the princess Latifa, but she asked me to come to Dubai and help with a family dilemma.

"And the dilemma was that Latifa is vulnerable, she's troubled. She made a video that she now regrets and she planned an escape or was part of a plan of an escape, it's under circumstances that I think need to be examined because immediately there was a very big demand note for 300 million dollars and 30 million right away, and then she was taken off the boat and is now in the care of her family.

"And I had lunch with her. She's a very likeable young woman but clearly troubled, clearly needs the medical care she's receiving,” Mrs Robinson said.

Latifa was last seen in March aboard a yacht off the coast of India.

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, left, meets Mary Robinson
(United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation via AP)
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, left, meets Mary Robinson (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation via AP)

A former French spy allegedly helped her plot an escape from Dubai, and seek asylum abroad.

But this plan was thwarted after Indian and Emirati security forces boarded the yacht and took Latifah back to Dubai, according to two people who were involved in the plot.

A video made by Latifa was posted online shortly after her return to her family. She recorded the video before her attempt to flee in March.

In the recording, she claimed she was tortured and imprisoned for three years after a previous attempt to flee in 2002.

"If you are watching this video, it is not such a good thing. Either I'm dead or I'm in a very, very, very bad situation," Latifa said in the recording. "They are not going to take me back alive," she said.

Before the incident Latifa, the princess was best known for her sky diving exploits, often posting video of herself diving with an Emirate flag attached to her person.

When pressed if she believed she was able to have a frank conversation with the princess given the circumstances in which she met her, Mrs Robinson said she believed she was.

"I was able to assess the situation. She wasn't with her wider family. She was with Princess Haya and some of Princess Haya's younger family and two other people. It wasn't a big number.

“I was very aware of how troubled she appeared to be, but also she, you know, talked about being a... sky diving instructor to the two 11-year-olds who were at the table, and she talked about the future.

“And we talked about climate change and I mentioned that I would be back in Dubai in early March, because I'm promoting [her book on climate change]  in the Emirates Literary Festival. I also sent a report that evening to Michelle Bachelet, the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and while I was in Dubai, I had a telephone conversation conversation with the most recent High Commissioner Zeid who is also a good friend. These are good friends of mine.”

When asked if she was able to give reassurances that Latifa was safe and well, Mrs Robinson said she was able to give such assurances.

"I think it's a very complicated situation. I understand the concern. I've also been in an email exchange with Ken Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, because I know they've been very concerned, but I think you have to bear in mind that this is a troubled young woman who has a serious medical situation.

“She is receiving psychiatric care and they don't want her to endure any more publicity. And that was the dilemma.

“So when I wrote to Michelle Bachelet,  I sent to her the three photographs that I was happy to be released to help the family to allow it to be understood that this is this is a family matter now and that she is in the care, in the loving care, of her family.”

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