The United Nations’ human rights agency has written to the Indian government seeking an explanation for the disappearance of an Emirati princess in March, The Wire reported on Wednesday.
Sheikha Latifa, daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, went missing on March 5 about 50 km from Goa’s coast when she was in a yacht with a former French spy and a Finnish friend. She had earlier claimed in a video that she would soon try to flee the United Arab Emirates as her family was oppressing and torturing her.
In April, a report by Business Standard claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had authorised a “secret Coast Guard operation” to intercept the yacht on the night of March 4. “Highly-placed” government officials had told the newspaper that key national security experts advised Modi that it was necessary to secure India’s counter-terrorism and strategic interests.
India has not made any official comment on the matter yet. If she had really faced torture, both the international and Indian law would prohibit sending her back to Dubai, legal scholar Abhimanyu George Jain had told Business Standard.
Guernica 37, a law firm representing the princess and her two companions, told The Wire that it had requested the United Nations’ human rights agencies to intervene immediately. Following this, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, or WGEID, has asked the UAE and India to respond to the allegations of their involvement in Latifa’s “enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention”, Toby Cadman of Guernica 37 was quoted as saying.
The WGEID also asked the two governments to “provide justification for a joint military operation” against the yacht, which had an US flag, in international waters, Cadman told The Wire.
The WGEID refused to comment on the matter, and told the news website that its proceedings were confidential and it could not disclose information on individual cases.
A nonprofit – Detained in Dubai – has claimed that Latifa was fleeing her father and trying to migrate to the US via India. Radha Stirling, the chief executive of the nonprofit, said she was the last person who Latifa had sent a message to. “In her last [message], Sheikha Latifa appeared to be highly distressed and in a state of panic,” Stirling said.
Stirling got Latifa’s messages on WhatsApp when armed men, reportedly from the Indian Coast Guard, boarded the yacht. She claimed in her message to Stirling that she was hearing gunshots. She stopped responding soon after.
Latifa’s two companions have claimed in interviews that men from the Indian Coast Guard had entered their yacht and held them captive. The two were released in the UAE about two weeks later.