Mary Robinson welcomes UN call for information on Princess Latifa’s fate

Human rights experts want UAE to provide concrete proof the princess is still alive

Former Irish president Mary Robinson has welcomed a call by UN human rights experts for "meaningful information" on the fate of Princess Latifa of Dubai.

The UN has urged the United Arab Emirates to provide concrete proof "without delay" that Princess Latifa, a daughter of Dubai's ruler and who is reportedly being held in detention, is alive.

Ms Robinson, a former UN high commissioner for human rights, said on Tuesday it is “heartening” to learn the issue of Latifa’s safety is now being addressed at “the appropriate level – between the United Nations and the government of the UAE”.

“I welcome the statement issued by the UN human rights experts today calling on the government of the United Arab Emirates to provide meaningful information on the fate of Sheikha Latifa Mohammed Al Maktoum, including assurances of her safety and wellbeing, without delay,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.


Princess Latifa tried to flee Dubai in 2018. In footage released by the BBC in February of this year, she said she had been drugged during her escape attempt and taken back into detention.

Mary Robinson became embroiled in the case after she attended a lunch with the princess and the princess’s family in December 2018 amid increasing international concern for Latifa’s welfare. Ms Robinson has since said her role in the controversy was her biggest mistake.


Earlier on Tuesday, the UN experts had said they are “alarmed” that no concrete information has been released by UAE authorities since the footage released in February in which Princess Latifa reported being deprived of her liberty against her will. In a BBC Panorama documentary, friends said they were concerned that communication with the princess had stopped. Following the report, the UN had made an initial request for proof of life.

“The statement issued by the Emirates authorities merely indicating that she was being ‘cared for at home’ is not sufficient at this stage,” the UN experts said on Tuesday. They asked for “independent verification of the conditions under which she is being held, and for her immediate release”.

According to information received by the UN, the princess continues to be deprived of liberty with no access to the outside world.

“Her continued incommunicado detention can have harmful physical and psychological consequences and may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the experts said.

Following the lunch meeting in 2018 with the princess, Ms Robinson had described her as “troubled”, but she now says she was misled by the princess’s stepmother, a former friend.

In February's BBC Panorama documentary, Ms Robinson said the former friend, Princess Haya bint Hussein, had told her Princess Latifa had quite a serious bipolar disorder. Ms Robinson said she had been told "in a way that was very convincing" that the family did not want Latifa to go through any further trauma.

Secret recordings

Photographs of the 2018 lunch in Dubai were quickly made public, a development Ms Robinson said left her “flabbergasted”. Through secret recordings the princess told the BBC Panorama programme that she had been tricked into participating in pictures. She said she had been told she was being allowed out as a “test” to see if she could behave and she sat next to Ms Robinson, but she didn’t know who she was or of her links to the UN.

Ms Robinson told RTÉ’s The Late Late Show in February that she was naive on the situation and should have been more alert.

“I made a big mistake. I’ve made mistakes before; that’s the biggest one.”

Speaking to reporters in Dublin in July 2019, Ms Robinson said she had never been friends with the leadership of the UAE except for Princess Haya.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed’s sixth and youngest wife, Princess Haya, fled to London in April 2019 with their two children. His attempt to return the children to Dubai triggered a legal action in the family courts.

The sheikh has extensive business links to Ireland, owning eight farms in the Republic, including the 1,500-acre Kildangan Stud in Co Kildare. His horse breeding and racing business, Godolphin Ireland UC, received €217,018 in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments from the Department of Agriculture in the 2019 financial year.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter