Dubai ruler kidnapped and detained two of his daughters, UK court rules

Judge says actions show ‘a number of common themes, at the core of which is the use of the state and its apparatus to threaten, intimidate, mistreat and oppress with a total disregard for the rule of law’

Vincent Wood
Thursday 05 March 2020 17:13
UN asked to intervene over Dubai ruler's daughter Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammad al-Maktoum 'being detained against her will' after failed escape from UAE

The ruler of Dubai conducted a sustained campaign of fear and intimidation against his ex-wife, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, forcing her to flee to London with their two children, the English High Court has found.

In a statement of fact issued by the UK’s most senior family judge, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was also ruled to have “ordered and orchestrated” the abduction of his two adult children from a previous marriage two decades apart.

The findings come after Princess Haya fled from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to London last year with their two children – daughter Al Jalila, 12, and son Zayed, 8 – prompting the 70-year-old prime minister of the UAE to apply for his children to be returned.

However the princess responded by calling for the children to be made wards of the court, while also applying for a forced marriage protection order for her daughter.

Alongside the rulings, Princess Haya called for a series of statements of fact to be made, including that Sheikh Mohammed had played a part in the kidnap and detention of his two adult daughters – Sheikha Shamsa when she was 19, and Sheikha Latifa in two instances, in 2002 and 2018.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, found that Shamsa, now 38, was abducted from the streets of Cambridge and “has been deprived of her liberty for much if not all of the past two decades”.

He also found that Latifa, 35, was held “on the instructions of her father” for more than three years after her first escape attempt in 2002 before being released in October 2005.

In a second attempt outlined to the court by friend Tiina Jauhiainen, Indian special forces boarded Latifa’s boat in international waters off the coast of Goa. She was later returned to the UAE.

The judge said Ms Jauhiainen’s account of Latifa’s last words to her “say a great deal”.

He added: “She was pleading for the soldiers to kill her rather than face the prospect of going back to her family in Dubai.

“Drawing these matters together I conclude, on the balance of probability, that Latifa’s account of her motives for wishing to leave Dubai represents the truth.

“She was plainly desperate to extricate herself from her family and prepared to undertake a dangerous mission in order to do so.”​

He went on to agree that events carried out between 2000 and the present day portrayed “a number of common themes, at the core of which is the use of the state and its apparatus to threaten, intimidate, mistreat and oppress with a total disregard for the rule of law”.

The judge added: “I also accept ... that these findings, taken together, demonstrate a consistent course of conduct over two decades where, if he deems it necessary to do so, the father will use the very substantial powers at his disposal to achieve his particular aims.”

In a statement issued after the judgments were published, Sheikh Mohammed 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 only tells 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.”

Additional reporting by PA

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