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Princess Latifa: UAE 'a lawless country with good PR firms', campaigner David Haigh tells Euronews

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In this Dec. 15, 2018 photo Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum meets Mary Robinson, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In this Dec. 15, 2018 photo Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum meets Mary Robinson, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.   -   Copyright  United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation via AP
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A human rights lawyer has told Euronews that the decision to raise the alarm over the plight of Princess Latifa has been vindicated by the international reaction.

David Haigh released videos in which Latifa — the daughter of one of the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) rulers — claims she is being held against her will.

Her father is Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the hereditary ruler of Dubai who also serves as prime minister and vice president of the UAE.

In footage filmed surreptitiously over the last year and aired by the BBC, the 35-year-old claims she has been detained in a barricaded villa since trying to escape the country in 2018. Latifa says she has been denied medical help and is "worried about my safety and my life".

Haigh had been among friends Latifa had been secretly communicating with from the villa. They raised the alarm this week after losing contact with her six months ago.

"We felt it was the right time to do it and I think the reaction that you're seeing from world leaders, which is exactly what we wanted, shows that it was the right thing to do," he said.

He added that the decision to release the videos was preceded by "many, many sleepless nights".

What has been the reaction to the videos?

Latifa's lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC, has appealed to the United Nations and the international community "to intervene as rapidly as possible to secure her well being".

"The United Nations has direct access to the UAE authorities as one of the member states. They should immediately look to contact them, have the necessary meetings to sort this out and resolve it and make sure we know where the princess is, that she can be released and that she's able to travel.

"Governments can also ensure that they support that action (...) Many of them have close relations with the UAE authorities through trade and other reasons, and that they should use their influence to ensure that this situation is resolved as rapidly as possible," he added.

The Office for the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights said that it would "raise these new developments with the UAE".

A UN source also told Euronews that "there are a number of specialised independent mechanisms that would be looking at this".

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab both said on Wednesday that they are "concerned" about the situation and that they would be looking at the UN for guidance. Raab stressed however that there is little the country can do given Latifa is not a UK national.

'A lawless country with good PR firms'

Sheikh Mohammed has always denied the kidnapping and detention of his daughter, claiming she is in the loving care of her family.

But a UK court found earlier this year in a case brought by his former wife, Princess Haya, that the Sheikh orchestrated the kidnapping of his daughter Shamsa in Cambridge in 2000 and Latifa's two kidnappings in 2002 and 2018.

Haya fled from the UAE to the UK with the couple's two children in 2018 and the pair have since been engaged in a custody battle.

Haigh said the kidnappings show that "it's human rights in general that are abused by the UAE institutions".

"This is the leader of a country kidnapping women at will with impunity and doing it again and again and again," Haigh told Euronews.

"We can't allow that to happen, there has to be rule of law, we have to have standards for countries that we are doing business with.

"This is a lawless country that has got good PR firms. That's the best way to describe it," he went on.

Human rights activists have also reacted to the latest developments with Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch calling on horse racing institutions to boycott the Sheikh.

Sheikh Mohammed is a major figure in international thoroughbred horse racing and breeding with his Godolphin horse racing operations spanning four continents. He is often seen attending the world's biggest races, including Royal Ascot where he was photographed multiple times with Queen Elizabeth.

"No matter how much money he pays to race his horses, no respectable should touch Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum until he releases his daughter," Roth wrote on Twitter.

"When you think of Dubai, don't let the high rises and its playground reputation obscure the fact that it is ruled by a man, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who has locked up his daughter, Princess Latifa, for wanting to escape from his control," he also wrote.