In March 2018, a video of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum talking about fleeing the United Arab Emirates surfaced on Youtube. Latifa is the daughter of the Emirate of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. She cited her father’s dictatorial control on her life as the reason behind her bid to escape. The princess claimed that after her first bolt for freedom in 2002, her father had her tortured and jailed for three years and four months. Latifa said, “…It could be the last video I make.”
In February this year, she made her second attempt to escape with the help of Harvey Jaubert, a French businessman and former spy who had himself fled the UAE, and her friend Tiina Jauhiainen. They planned to reach the United States via India. According to her associates, on the evening of 4 March, when the three were on a yacht off the coast of Goa, UAE commandos and the Indian Coast Guard boarded the vessel. Latifa reportedly called Radha Stirling, co-founder of Detained from Dubai—a London-based non-governmental organisation that helps people negotiate UAE’s legal system. Jaubert and Jauhiainen said the forces ransacked the yacht, beat them and threatened to kill them, before abducting them. Latifa has not been publicly seen since, though the Court of the Ruler of Dubai claims that she is alive and well.
The incident raised questions regarding the legality of India’s involvement in the operation, since the alleged incident took place in international waters. While the Indian government has not commented on whether the operation took place or not, a Business Standard report, relying on “highly placed government sources,” stated that the alleged operation involved three coast guard ships, helicopters and a maritime surveillance aircraft.
Following the alleged abduction, Detained in Dubai approached Toby Cadman to take up the case of Latifa’s alleged abduction. Cadman is the co-founder of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, a London-based organisation that promotes transnational accountability through litigation in national courts. Cadman reached out to the United Nation’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to demand the physical presence of Latifa and prosecute Indian authorities for raiding her yacht in international waters.
In an interview over email to Sagar, a staff writer with The Caravan, Cadman spoke about the alleged abduction, India’s involvement in the case and how it would affect the country’s image internationally.
S: What are the accusations against Indian authorities?
TC: It is alleged that Indian coast guards, in concert with UAE authorities, unlawfully attacked a US-flagged yacht, the Nostromo, in international waters without any warning. It is alleged that they unlawfully detained Sheikha Latifa and the five other persons on the boat—Tiina Jauhiainen, Herve Jaubert and three crew members—beat them, ransacked the yacht and stole personal items. Sheikha Latifa pleaded with them to let her go. She pleaded for asylum, but they ignored her pleas. She was handed over to the UAE authorities and has not been seen since.