UN asks UAE for proof that princess is still alive following 'disturbing' video footage

Sheikha Latifa (left) having a meal with Ms Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, in Dubai, on Dec 24, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - The UN Human Rights Office said on Friday (Feb 19) it has asked the United Arab Emirates for proof that Dubai's Sheikha Latifa is still alive following "disturbing" video footage aired this week.

The request comes after the BBC aired self-shot footage in which the daughter of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, said she was being held captive and feared for her life.

The father of 35-year-old Sheikha Latifa is the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, of which Dubai is one of the seven emirates.

The princess has not been seen in public since she attempted to escape from the emirate by sea in 2018.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said it had spoken to the UAE's diplomatic mission in Geneva on Thursday.

"We did raise the case yesterday with the permanent mission here in Geneva," OHCHR spokesman Liz Throssell told reporters. "We did ask for proof of life."

The BBC said the clips it broadcast on Tuesday were filmed roughly a year after Sheikha Latifa was captured and returned to Dubai, showing her crouched in a corner of what she says is a bathroom.

The undated videos were aired as Sheikha Latifa's friends voiced concern that they are no longer receiving secret messages from her, the BBC reported.

Serious concerns

"We raised our concerns about the situation in light of the disturbing video evidence that emerged this week," said Ms Throssell. "We requested more information and clarification about Sheikha Latifa's current situation.

"Given the serious concerns about Sheikha Latifa, we have requested that the government's response comes as a matter of priority.

"We look forward to receiving and considering this response, and in the meantime, of course, we will continue to monitor and assess the situation closely."

In 2018, Sheikha Latifa attempted to flee the UAE on a boat that was intercepted by commandos off the coast of India, according to her companions and the UK-based group Detained in Dubai.

In the videos, Sheikha Latifa says that men from the UAE sat on her, tried to tie her up and injected her with a sedative.

A Dubai government source later said she had been "brought back" and the UAE released photographs of her, saying she was receiving "the necessary care and support".

Remote video URL

Sheikha Latifa said she was held for about three months in the Al-Awir central prison in Dubai, until May 2018, before being moved to the villa.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told British media he was "concerned" by the videos, while rights group Amnesty International called the footage "chilling".

Another rights group, Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday called for proof of life of the princess.

"We are hopeful to see that there is movement and that there are comments being made," HRW Gulf researcher Hiba Zayadin told AFP late on Wednesday. "We just hope that they are followed by actions, that the UN fully and clearly calls for her release, not just proof of life.

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