The United Nations’ human rights body said Wednesday it will seek information from the United Arab Emirates about a daughter of Dubai’s powerful ruler after she said in video messages that she was being imprisoned in a heavily guarded villa.
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum tried to flee the wealthy Gulf state in 2018 but was detained by commandos in a boat off India. She had not been heard from until Tuesday, when the BBC’s Panorama investigative programme broadcast video messages from the Sheikha.
In the videos, which appear to have been recorded covertly, the 35-year-old princess says she is “worried about my safety and my life.” “I don’t really know if I’m going to survive this situation,” she says in one of the videos. The BBC said they were recorded over months on a phone she secretly received about a year after her capture.
Marcus Essabri, a cousin who lives in England, told the BBC that the videos stopped about six months ago and there had been no word from Latifa since then.
“I fear they caught her with the phone and now I am fearful for her safety,” he said.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said it would “raise these new developments with the UAE. Other parts of the UN human rights system with relevant mandates may also become involved once they have analysed the new material or received specific allegations,” spokesman Rupert Colville told the BBC.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the videos very distressing and said he supported a UN investigation.
Raab said Britain was concerned, but suggested there was little the government could do because Latifa is not a UK national.
Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai royal court have said Latifa is safe in the loving care of her family. The UAE government’s Dubai Media Office did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
In 2018, the AP reported how a friend and an ex-French spy helped Sheikha Latifa escape by boat, only to be captured off India.
The dramatic escape attempt and its aftermath intruded into the carefully controlled image maintained by the family of Latifa’s father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Sheikh Mohammed, who rules Dubai and also serves as the prime minister and vice president in the hereditarily ruled UAE, is believed to have several dozen children from multiple wives. Some of his sons and daughters figure prominently in local media and online, but others are rarely seen. Sheikha Latifa was widely known for her love of skydiving prior to 2018.
Sheikh Mohammed’s family life again became a public matter in 2020. Then, a British judge ruled that the sheikh had conducted a campaign of fear and intimidation against his estranged wife and ordered the abduction of two of his daughters, one of them Sheikha Latifa. The ruling came in a High Court custody battle between Sheikh Mohammed and UK-based estranged wife Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
Sheikh Mohammed is the founder of the successful Godolphin horse-racing stable and is on friendly terms with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. In 2019, he received a trophy from the queen after one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot.