LONDON: Campaigners have voiced concern after former UN human rights chief Mary Robinson said a princess who tried to flee the United Arab Emirates was “clearly troubled”.
Robinson met with Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, for lunch in the UAE earlier this month and the authorities there released pictures of the meeting this week.
Latifa has not been seen in public since she was allegedly captured at sea off India in March as she tried to escape after recording a YouTube video in which she criticised her father and the restrictions she lived under.
Robinson, a former president of Ireland, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday that Latifa was suffering from “a serious medical situation” and was receiving psychiatric care without giving further details about her condition.
“Was she like that before attempting to escape her gilded prison or only after the UAE forcibly returned her there?” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, asked on Twitter.
“The only certain thing is that a quick lunch won’t provide the answer,” he wrote.
Radha Stirling, head of the campaign group Detained in Dubai, said Robinson “appeared to be reciting almost verbatim from Dubai’s script”.
Stirling said that Robinson’s comments “reveal nothing concrete about Latifa’s condition and serve only to promote Dubai’s attempt to avoid any serious enquiry”.
“We are very happy that Latifa is alive but are cognizant of the fact that she herself said that she would rather die than be returned to her father’s custody and thus continue to have grave concerns about her welfare,” Stirling said.
Accounts by people involved in Latifa’s escape attempt said that she fled first to Oman, before boarding a yacht which was surrounded by the Indian navy and then towed back to the UAE.
A source close to the Dubai government said in April the princess had been “brought back” to Dubai.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2018