'I visited Latifa in good faith', insists Robinson after media backlash

Sheikha Latifa and Mary Robinson on their meeting in Dubai

Ralph Riegel

Former president Mary Robinson expressed her "dismay" at how her trip to Dubai to visit Princess Latifa has been portrayed in the world's media as one of her primary social media pages was taken down.

The UN ambassador issued a personal statement about her December 15 meeting with the runaway princess as she was clearly stung by a mounting storm of global criticism.

A number of campaigners for Princess Latifa claimed they had been blocked by the foundation's social media account after asking detailed questions about the Dubai meeting.

Mrs Robinson expressed her dismay at how her Dubai visit had been presented and insisted her comment about Princess Latifa's "vulnerability" should not be misinterpreted.

"I undertook the visit and made an assessment, not a judgment, based on personal witness, in good faith and to the best of my ability," she said.

Mrs Robinson said she travelled to Dubai for the meeting at the request of Princess Haya bint Hussein, one of the wives of the UAE Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

"I have known and worked with Princess Haya for many years in her capacity as a member of the UN Global Humanitarian Forum and as a UN Messenger of Peace," she said.

"I was aware of the international concern over Sheikha Latifa and that she had not been seen for many months, so when Princess Haya asked me to go to Dubai to meet with both of them I agreed, without hesitation.

"On my arrival in Dubai, I received extensive briefings and it was clear to me that Princess Haya had particular concern for the welfare of Sheikha Latifa, whom she described as troubled and quite vulnerable.

"During my time with her, Sheikha Latifa presented as a very likeable young woman with a wide range of interests, but her vulnerability was apparent."

Mrs Robinson said she had taken steps following her visit.

"I have written a report of my visit to Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. I believe future action rests with that office, with the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances and with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions."

However, human rights groups and legal campaigners demanded further answers.


Lawyer Radha Stirling, head of the rights group Detained in Dubai and who knows Princess Latifa, said further questions needed to be answered.

"Anyone familiar with Princess Latifa's story who listened to the BBC radio interview with Mary Robinson will be astonished at the extent to which Mrs Robinson appeared to be reciting almost verbatim from Dubai's script," she said.

Last night, it emerged the shutdown of the Twitter account linked to the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice was part of a long-planned wind-down.

The social media site @MRFCJ was taken down in the 24 hours after the Princess Latifa controversy emerged.