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Dubai must reveal status of missing princess, says rights group

Sheikha Latifa is the daughter of the Emir of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum
Princess Latifa in a video from March said she was fleeing the country because of mistreatment. She later returned (screengrab)

Human Rights Watch urged Dubai authorities on Saturday to reveal the whereabouts of a princess and daughter of the ruler, saying her case could constitute "enforced disappearance". 

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, 32, is the daughter of the Emir of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In a video posted in March, the Dubai princess said she was fleeing the emirate and accused her father of mistreatment. She also claimed her family had restrictions imposed by her.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch urged the Dubai authorities to reveal the whereabouts of the princess.

"UAE authorities should immediately reveal the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa, confirm her status, and allow her contact with the outside world," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, on Saturday.

"If she is detained she needs to be given the rights all detainees should have, including being taken before an independent judge."

The princess, who is famed for skydiving over the Dubai skyline and unfurling a United Arab Emirates flag, said she had an Algerian mother, Horriya Ahmed, and that she had tried to escape in previous years.

The following month a source close to the Dubai government told AFP the princess had been returned to the emirate. 

"What I can confirm is they took her, and she was brought back," the anonymous source told AFP by phone on 17 April.

On Saturday HRW said Dubai authorities must "reveal" her whereabouts and "clarify her legal status".

"Failure to disclose the whereabouts and status of the princess could qualify as enforced disappearance, given the evidence suggesting that she was last seen as UAE authorities were detaining her," the US-based rights group said.

'Rampaging scheme'

It cited a witness saying authorities in the UAE had "intercepted Sheikha Latifa on March 4, 2018, as she tried to flee by sea to a third country, and returned her to the UAE".

"Sheikha Latifa, who told friends that she wished to flee restrictions imposed by her family, has not been seen or heard from for two months," it said.

That raised "serious concerns about her safety and well-being, two friends said," HRW added.

Latifa's cause has been taken up by a UK-based group called Detained in Dubai.

The group said Latifa tried to flee Dubai by ship, but the vessel was intercepted on 4 March less than 80km off the coast of India.

It said a Finnish woman, friend of the princess, was among foreigners on board.

The source close to the Dubai government said last month that the Finnish woman and two French men, one with dual US citizenship, participated in the escape attempt and were wanted in Dubai on previous charges.

"It is a domestic issue that transformed into a soap opera that transformed into a rampaging scheme to tarnish the reputation of Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed," the source said.

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