UN rights chief met Dubai princess Latifa who once claimed she was held hostage

Dubai's Sheikha Latifa (left) posing for a picture with UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet in Paris recently. PHOTO: UNHUMANRIGHTS/ TWITTER

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations rights chief met with Sheikha Latifa of Dubai in November and was assured she was well, but did not immediately reveal the meeting over privacy concerns, the UN said on Monday (Feb 21).

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet tweeted on Friday about the meeting in Paris, but did not reveal the date.

Her tweet, which included a picture of the two women smiling in front of a Paris metro station, landed a year after British media released videos of the princess saying she was being held hostage and feared for her life.

Responding to a query from AFP, the UN rights office said on Monday that "the meeting took place at the end of November in Paris, when the High Commissioner was en route to Burkina Faso and Niger for official visits".

"Latifa had requested the meeting," spokesman Elizabeth Throssell wrote in an e-mail.

She pointed to the "serious concerns earlier in 2021" about Sheikha Latifa's situation and recalled Ms Bachelet's office had "publicly called for proof of life".

"This one to one meeting held in private in a hotel in Paris of course satisfies that."

She said Sheikha Latifa's legal advisor, Mr Niri Shan, had organised the meeting and attended the initial part of it, but that "the major part of the meeting was between the High Commissioner and Sheikha Latifa alone".

'Live in peace'

Asked about the late revelation of the meeting, Ms Throssel said Sheikha Latifa had "expressed to the High Commissioner that she wished for her privacy to be respected".

"We of course respect that," she said, adding Ms Bachelet's tweet had been "issued with her agreement".

A statement from Sheikha Latifa herself, obtained by AFP on Monday, also highlighted her desire for privacy and described "a lengthy, positive and private meeting in Paris with the High Commissioner to assert her right to a private life, following persistent media speculation about her".

"Latifa would like to make clear that she is living as she wishes, that she is travelling as she wishes, that she is perfectly well and that she would like the media to allow her to live in peace," it said.

Sheikha Latifa, 36-year-old daughter of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, had said last June she was free to travel.

Sheikha Latifa made an unsuccessful attempt to flee the emirate in March 2018, escaping by boat with friends' help before being hauled back.

In February 2021, the BBC aired clips it said were filmed roughly a year after she was captured and returned to Dubai, showing her crouched in a corner of what she says is a bathroom.

"I'm a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail," she says in one phone clip.

Dubai's royal family had insisted that Sheikha Latifa was being "cared for at home".

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