Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum (II)

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Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Sheikha
Born (1985-12-05) 5 December 1985 (age 33)
Dubai
Full name
Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
HouseAl Falasi
FatherMohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
MotherHuriah Ahmed Al M'aash[1][2]
SignatureLatifa MRM II 19851205 Signature.png

Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Arabic: شيخة لطيفة بنت محمد بن راشد آل مكتوم‎) (born 5 December 1985) is an Emirati princess and a member of the Dubai royal family. She is the daughter of the Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Huriah Ahmed Al M'aash[1][2] from Algeria. Sheikha Latifa has two half-sisters with same name (one older and one younger).[citation needed][3] She is the full sister of Sheikha Maitha (1980), Sheikha Shamsa (1981),[4][5][6] and Sheikh Majid (1987).[7]

Princess Latifa's whereabouts are unknown since 4 March 2018.[8] She was kidnapped 40 km (22 nmi)[citation needed] away from the Indian coast by a joint India-Emirates special operation while still in international waters, aiming to reach an American embassy to ask for asylum.

Early life[edit]

In a video statement, Princess Latifa explained that she and her brother Sheikh Majid spent their early childhood under the care of their paternal aunt. Her early education was at the Dubai English Speaking School and later at the International School of Choueifat, with one year at Latifa School for Girls.[9] Sheikha Latifa is an experienced skydiver[10][11] coached by former world champion skydiver Stefania Martinengo[4] and held Accelerated freefall (AFF) Instructor rating.[12][13][14][15]

2018 disappearance[edit]

'Nostromo' Location before disappearance (15°41′02″N 73°13′19″E / 15.684°N 73.222°E / 15.684; 73.222)[16][17]

On 24 February 2018,[18] Princess Latifa and Finnish national Tiina Jauhiainen left Oman via jet skis and joined American/French national Hervé Jaubert and his crew on the yacht 'Nostromo'.[19]

On 26 February 2018, Princess Latifa made contact with a British-based attorney Radha Stirling and Detained in Dubai, notifying them of her leaving Dubai and posted a few departing messages on her social media account, detailing the circumstances and reasons for her departure.[20]

On 3 March 2018, before the disappearance near the coast of India, Jaubert made contact with an Indian journalist in preparation for the end of their journey.[21]

On 4 March 2018, Princess Latifa, Jaubert and Jauhiainen, along with the crew of three Philippine nationals disappeared in the Indian Ocean, while approaching Goa (India),[22][23][24][25][26][27][28] on board a US registered yacht named 'Nostromo' with the call sign WDG9847.[29][30][28][31] Latifa has not been heard of since.[32]

On 9 March 2018, the Daily Mail broke the news of the disappearance of 'Nostromo' and those aboard, after being contacted by Princess Latifa's representatives.[33]

A 39 minute long video had been made by her before the escape attempt, to be released in case her life was in danger. This was made public on 11 March 2018.[34] Recorded at Tiina's apartment, in this video she gives her family background and explains the circumstances leading to her decision, also accusing her father of maltreatment of her and sister Shamsa[18][35] and other serious charges.[36][37][unreliable source?]

In response to queries regarding this incident near the Indian coastline, Deputy Commandant Avinandan Mitra of the Indian Coast Guard denied knowledge of the event saying, "we have no such information or operation". Indian Intelligence agencies said they were trying to verify the claims but refused to comment any further.[38]

The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) confirmed the disappearance of Jauhiainen and the opening of an investigation in close collaboration with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.[39][40] The brother of Jauhiainen confirmed her friendship with Princess Latifa.[28][41]

On 20 March 2018, the yacht 'Nostromo' was spotted at the port of Fujairah in the UAE[42][43] on MarineTraffic as its AIS tracking system was turned on. It left next day for Sri Lanka with the released crew, including Jaubert and three Filipino nationals on board. 'Nostromo' reached Galle, Sri Lanka on 2 April 2018.[44][45]

On 22 March 2018, Princess Latifa's companion Jauhiainen was found, prompting the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to terminate its search in cooperation with the Dubai authorities. The location in which Jauhiainen was found and details of prior events were not shared officially but she returned from Dubai to Finland via London on the night of 22 March 2018 via an Emirates flight, according to her family.[46][47][48]

According to representative legal firm,[clarification needed] a number of people[49][unreliable source?] were detained or interrogated in connection to the event in UAE and Oman, notably Christian Elombo,[50][36] a French national who spent more than a month in custody in Oman from late February to 5 April 2018. After being released without charges, he was again taken into custody in Luxembourg on 6 April 2018 under an Interpol Red Notice issued by the UAE.[51][52][53] The notice was later retracted without notification or producing any evidence for the cited kidnapping charges on 8 May 2018, resulting in an additional 41-day detention of Christian Elombo from 6 April to 17 May 2018.[clarification needed][54][55]

Interception of the yacht 'Nostromo'[edit]

Offshore patrol vessel ICGS Samarth with Hull number 11
Baynunah-class corvette

According to the testimonies of the crew, the yacht was being actively searched for by an Indian Coast Guard search and rescue aircraft with the aircraft registration SAR CG 782 on 3 March 2018. On the day of interception the yacht was again scouted by another aircraft. Before the raid on 4 March 2018, three marine vessels were spotted on radar by Nostromo's crew, tailing it at a speed of less than five knots. Two of the vessels were later identified as ICGS Shoor,[56] and ICGS Samarth,[57] described in media statements by Jaubert as "The two coast guards vessels had a huge marking on the side of the hull, which read 'Indian coast guards' and one had an ID number painted: 11".[44][58][59]

After sunset two unmarked speedboats carrying six to eight armed personnel in full military gear and Tavor assault rifles were launched from these ships to intercept 'Nostromo'. Raid began with use of stun and smoke grenades to disorient and incapacitate the crew followed by them being handcuffed, blindfolded and severely beaten.[44][60][61] After being taken over by Indian Coast Guard the yacht was boarded by at least ten Emirati special forces personnel who arrived by helicopter.[60] Princess Latifa despite claiming asylum to Indian personnel and clear unwillingness to go back to the UAE from where she was fleeing, was forcefully taken away onto one of the warships.[44] 'Nostromo' and rest of the crew were taken to the naval base in Fujairah escorted by Indian Coast Guard ships. During the six day journey back they were transferred to a UAE warship with 'Baynunah' written on side.[45]

According to Radha Stirling's account she received her last voice message from Latifa during the alleged raid in a panicked state telling her "Radha please help me, there are men outside" and that she had heard 'gunshots'.[62] Further attempts of communication from those on-board 'Nostromo' allegedly failed due to jamming from an Indian electronic warfare aircraft.[63][64] As of 4 September 2018 her whereabouts are unknown.[8][32][50]

In total at least three Indian, two Emirati warships, two military planes and a helicopter were involved in the raid on 'Nostromo', a US yacht registered to an American, about 50 miles off the coast of Goa, India, having traveled all the way there from the Middle East.[11][18]

Media reactions and aftermath[edit]

In the early days after news broke on disappearance of yacht 'Nostromo' and its crew the news was primarily carried on English and Finnish tabloids backed up by awareness campaigns in social media[65] which was boosted by support from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.[20][66]

Jauhiainen and Jaubert made their first public appearance after the incident in a press conference arranged by Detained in Dubai in London[67][64] despite facing alleged threats from the UAE government to stay silent.[18][68]

Following a couple of months without mention in Gulf media,[69] the western media stepped in and started asking for clarity on the status of Sheikha Latifa.[70] Human Rights Watch questioned Dubai's story, and asked Dubai's authorities to reveal her location, adding: "Failure to disclose the whereabouts and status of the princess could qualify as an Enforced disappearance, given the evidence suggesting that she was last seen as UAE authorities were detaining her."[71][32] UN OHCHR Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) sought responses on allegations from Governments of India and UAE.[72]

Dubai,_Where_is_Princess_Latifa%3F_Banner_1.jpg
Dubai,_Where_is_Princess_Latifa%3F_Banner_2.jpg

Ad-Diyaar, a mainstream Arab newspaper, also published the calls by Human Rights Watch raising the issue that Sheikha Latifa has been forcibly hidden.[73]

Support groups also stepped in raising awareness of the campaign at Kentucky Derby 2018 by flying a banner saying "DUBAI, WHERE IS PRINCESS LATIFA?".[74]

First reaction from the UAE on the matter was unofficial and claimed the incident to be a foreign conspiracy and attempted to discredit those helping princess Latifa using an anonymous Dubai source.[75][70] Notably following the Enforced Disappearance[76] of princess Latifa, UAE controlled media[77] began reporting extensively about social activities of her half-sister with same name who serves as Vice Chairman of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).[69] Many news outlets[78][79] ended up reporting Show jumper[80] Sheikha Latifah bint Ahmed bin Juma Al Maktoum[81][82][83][84] as missing, due to similarity in names.

The Indian government has been widely criticised for its extrajudicial outreach, citing national interests [85] and disregard of formal legal process.[86] Indian media reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advisers were directly involved in giving the orders of interception at request of Prime Minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum[87] and didn't seek any formal request from UAE. Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson claimed "No such incident has been brought to our notice." [59]

Similarly, the Finnish government was criticised for not raising concerns about a human rights violation of one of their citizens to Indian authorities.[88] A day later Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini responded, saying Finland had been in correspondence with UAE and Indian officials about the issue outside of media.[89][90]

Amnesty International on 4 September 2018 released a public statement appealing government of UAE to disclose whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa and uphold its international legal obligations, while also calling upon Indian government to investigate role of its security forces and officials involved in raid of Nostromo and unlawful excesses committed.[50]

In December 2018, it was reported that Sheikha Latifa had spent seven years planning her escape from Dubai.[91][92]

References[edit]

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