Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum (II)

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Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Sheikha
Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (II).jpg
Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum in January 2018
Born (1985-12-05) 5 December 1985 (age 34)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Full name
Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
HouseAl Falasi
FatherMohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
MotherHouria Ahmed Lamara[1][2][3]
SignatureLatifa MRM II 19851205 Signature.png

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Arabic: شيخة لطيفة بنت محمد بن راشد آل مكتومLaṭīfa bint Muḥammad bin Rāshid al-Maktūm) (born 5 December 1985) is an Emirati sheikha and a member of the Dubai ruling family. Her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the prime minister of the UAE, and her mother, Houria Ahmed Lamara,[1][2][3] is from Algeria.

Sheikha Latifa has two half-sisters with the same name.[4] She is the full sister of Sheikha Maitha (born 1980), Sheika Shamsa (born 1981),[5][6][7] and Sheikh Majid (born 1987).[8]

Sheikha Latifa escaped from Dubai in late February 2018 and was forcibly returned from international waters near the Indian coast by a joint India–Emirates operation on 4 March 2018.[9] In December 2018, the Dubai royal court said that she was back in Dubai.[10][11]

Early life[edit]

In a video statement, Sheikha Latifa said 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 the Latifa School for Girls.[12] Sheikha Latifa is an experienced skydiver,[13][14] coached by former world champion skydiver Stefania Martinengo,[5] and held accelerated freefall instructor rating.[15][16][17][18]

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[19][20]

On 24 February 2018,[21] Sheikha Latifa and her Finnish friend Tiina Jauhiainen left Dubai in a car and crossed the border to Oman.[22] They left Oman on jet skis and joined American–French citizen and former French intelligence officer Hervé Jaubert and his crew on the yacht Nostromo.[23] Two days later, she made contact with British-based attorney Radha Stirling of Detained in Dubai, notifying her of her departure from Dubai, and she posted a few departing messages on her social media account, detailing the circumstances and reasons for her departure.[24]

On 3 March 2018, Jaubert made contact with an Indian journalist in preparation for the end of their journey.[25] The following day, Sheikha Latifa, Jaubert and Jauhiainen, along with the crew of three Philippine nationals, were intercepted by Indian authorities while approaching Goa[26][27][28][29][30][31][32] on the U.S.-registered yacht Nostromo, call sign WDG9847.[33][34][32][35]

On 9 March 2018, the Daily Mail broke the news of the disappearance of Nostromo and those aboard, after being contacted by Sheikha Latifa's representatives.[36][37][38]

She had made a 39-minute video before the escape attempt, to be released in case her life was in danger,[39] and it was made public on 11 March 2018.[40] Recorded at Jauhiainen's apartment, the video explains her family background and the circumstances leading to her decision to flee. In the video, she also accuses her father of maltreatment of her and her sister Shamsa[21][41] along with other serious charges, including murder.[42][43][22]

The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation confirmed the disappearance of Jauhiainen and opened an investigation in collaboration with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.[44][45] The brother of Jauhiainen confirmed her friendship with Sheikha Latifa.[32][46]

On 20 March 2018, Nostromo was spotted at the port of Fujairah in the UAE.[47][48] It left the next day for Sri Lanka with the released crew, including Jaubert and three Philippine nationals, on board. Nostromo reached Galle, Sri Lanka, on 2 April 2018.[49][50]

On 22 March 2018, Sheikha 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 where Jauhiainen was found and details of prior events were not shared officially, but according to her family she returned from Dubai to Finland that night.[51][52][53]

According to Detained in Dubai, a number of people[54] were detained or interrogated in connection to the event in UAE and Oman, notably Christian Elombo,[55][42] a French national whose family is living in Luxembourg; Elombo spent more than a month in custody in Oman, from late February to 5 April 2018.[54] After being released without charge, he was again taken into custody in Luxembourg on 6 April 2018 for 41 days under an Interpol Red Notice issued by the UAE.[56][57][58] The notice was later retracted without notification or producing any evidence for the cited kidnapping charges.[59][60][61][62]

In December 2018, prior to the release of a BBC Two documentary Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess, the Dubai royal court released a statement saying that Latifa was safe at home.[63] On 25 December, photographs taken on 15 December were released showing Latifa alongside Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland.[64]

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 Indian Coast Guard search and rescue aircraft SAR CG 782 on 3 March 2018. On the day of interception the yacht was 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 5 knots. Two of the vessels were later identified as ICGS Shoor[65] and ICGS Samarth,[66] described in media statements by Jaubert: "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".[49][67][68]

After sunset two unmarked speedboats carrying six to eight armed Indian MARCOS Special Forces personnel in full military gear and Tavor assault rifles were launched from these ships to intercept Nostromo. The raid began with use of stun and smoke grenades to disorient and incapacitate the crew, who were then handcuffed.[49][69][70] After being taken over by Indian Coast Guard, the yacht was boarded by at least ten Emirati special forces personnel, who arrived by helicopter.[69] Sheikha Latifa, despite claiming asylum to Indian personnel and expressing a clear unwillingness to go back to the UAE from where she was fleeing, was forcefully taken away onto one of the ships.[49] Nostromo and the rest of the crew were taken to the naval base in Fujairah, escorted by the Indian Coast Guard and then transferred to UAE warship Baynunah.[50]

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".[71] Further attempts of communication from those on-board Nostromo allegedly failed due to jamming from an Indian electronic warfare aircraft.[72][73]

In total, at least three Indian and two Emirati warships, two military planes, and a helicopter were involved in the raid on Nostromo, about 50 miles off the coast of Goa.[14][21]

Media reactions and aftermath[edit]

In the early days after the disappearance of the yacht Nostromo and its crew, the news was primarily carried on English and Finnish tabloids, backed up by awareness campaigns in social media[74] and boosted by support from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.[24][75] Jauhiainen and Jaubert made their first public appearance after the incident in a press conference arranged by Detained in Dubai in London[76][73] despite facing alleged threats from the UAE government to stay silent.[21][77]

Following a period without mention in the Gulf media,[78] the Western media started asking for clarity on the status of Sheikha Latifa.[79] Human Rights Watch questioned Dubai's story, and asked Dubai's authorities to reveal her location, adding: "[f]ailure 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."[80][81] The UN OHCHR Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance sought responses on allegations from the Governments of India and UAE.[82]

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 calls by Human Rights Watch raising the issue that Sheikha Latifa had been forcibly hidden.[83] Support groups also raised awareness of the campaign at the 2018 Kentucky Derby by flying a banner saying "DUBAI, WHERE IS PRINCESS LATIFA?".[84]

The first reaction from the UAE on the matter was unofficial and claimed the incident had been a foreign conspiracy and attempted to discredit those helping Sheikha Latifa using an anonymous Dubai source.[85][79] The UAE-controlled media[86] began reporting extensively about the social activities of her half-sister with the same name, who serves as Vice Chairman of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).[78] Many news outlets[87][88] reported show jumper[89] Sheikha Latifah bint Ahmed bin Juma Al Maktoum[90][91][92][93] as missing, due to similarity in names.

The Indian government was widely criticised for its extrajudicial outreach, citing national interests[94][95] and disregard of formal legal process.[96] Indian media reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advisers were directly involved in giving the orders for interception at the request of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum[97] and didn't seek any formal request from UAE. An Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson claimed that "[n]o such incident has been brought to our notice."[68] Deputy Commandant Avinandan Mitra of the Indian Coast Guard, in response to media queries about this incident near the Indian coastline, said that "we have no such information or operation." Indian Intelligence agencies said they were trying to verify the claims but had no further comment.[39] On 2 January 2019, Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh denied any involvement of Indian Government in repatriation of emirati princess while replying to a question raised by member of parliament Saugata Roy.[98]

Similarly, the Finnish government was criticised for not raising concerns about a human rights violation of one of their citizens to Indian authorities.[99] A day later, the 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.[100][101]

Amnesty International, on 4 September 2018, released a public statement appealing to the government of UAE to disclose the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa and uphold its international legal obligations, while also calling upon the Indian government to investigate any role of its security forces and officials involved in the raid on Nostromo and unlawful excesses that may have been committed.[55]

On 6 December 2018, the release of the BBC Two documentary Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess elicited the first official response on the matter from the Dubai royal court in the form of a brief statement saying that Latifa was safe at home.[63] The documentary covered the escape attempt that Sheikha Latifa had spent seven years planning and also looking into a similar attempt by her sister Shamsa in 2000.[102][103] In January 2019, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's wife, Princess Haya al-Hussein of Jordan, half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, spoke in defense of Dubai's treatment of Sheikha Latifa.[104] After news reports of Princess Haya's alleged separation with Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, human rights campaigners called on Princess Haya to speak out on her stepdaughter Latifa’s fate in Dubai.[104]

The matter was referred to the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions by Guernica 37, a London-based law firm representing Latifa and her two friends.[105] Chairman-rapporteur, Bernard Duhaime of the UN's working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances wrote to Dubai's royal family requesting evidence that Latifa was alive and the grounds on which she was being held captive or else they would have to make a public statement.[106]

Mary Robinson's visit[edit]

On 24 December 2018, three low-resolution photographs taken on 15 December 2018, showing Sheikha Latifa alongside Mary Robinson, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, were released by UAE authorities.[107][108][109] According to Mary Robinson, the meeting was arranged by one of the wives of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Princess Haya, and described Latifa in a BBC Radio 4 interview[110] as a "troubled young woman" and claiming that she regretted making the earlier video in which she alleged abuse.[111] The comments were criticised by various rights groups and Detained in Dubai's head Radha Stirling for reciting Dubai's official version of the events "almost verbatim".[64][112] Human rights groups and associates of Sheikha Latifa questioned the nature of the brief visit, calling for independent investigation and assessment of her situation and disputing suggestions of any psychiatric problems and reiterating the possibility of her being held under captivity.[113][114][115][22]

2019 Court proceedings[edit]

In December 2019, a UK family court ruled that — on the balance of probabilities — Sheikh Mohammed orchestrated the abductions of Sheikha Latifa and Sheikha Shamsa and subjected Princess Haya to a campaign of "intimidation"; the findings were published in March 2020.[116][117]

Controversy[edit]

In May 2018, Helene Jaubert, ex-wife of former French Navy officer Hervé Jaubert told The Daily Beast that Jaubert and Radha Stirling had been in contact with Latifa for five years, and invented the scheme together: "The whole plan was for Hervé to help her escape and once he got her out the daughter was going to get to the dad and say 'I want $3 million or else I'll tell all to the media'. It was a con. It's a corrupt scheme gone haywire". According to Stirling, Latifa phoned her from the boat in the middle of the ambush, saying she feared for her life and "was hearing gunshots". Latifa made the call via WhatsApp and evidence of the call was provided to authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom and made available to reporters. However, The Daily Beast looked to discredit this by pointing out that a satellite phone is normally needed to call from their alleged location in the Indian Ocean.[118] However it was quickly established that the Nostromo was outfitted with satellite phone.[119] In August 2019, Tiina Jauhiainen gave her version of events to on-line magazine Insider.[120]

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

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