UK police to review probe into 2000 disappearance of Dubai ruler's daughter

UK police to review probe into 2000 disappearance of Dubai ruler's daughter
A UK court ruled this week that Sheikha Shamsa was likely abducted off the streets of Cambridge by her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
6 min read
07 March, 2020
A UK court ruled that Sheikha Shamsa was probably abducted by her father [info.latifa]
British police said Saturday they were reviewing an investigation into the disappearance of the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, from the streets of Cambridge 20 years ago.

The police confirmation comes a day after a UK court ruled that the ruler of Dubai organised the kidnapping of two of his daughters, Shamsa and Latifa, and subjected his wife - who fled the Gulf kingdom for Britain last year - to a campaign of harassment.

"An investigation into the alleged abduction of Shamsa Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum in 2000 was carried out by Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 2001. With the evidence that was available to us this was insufficient to take any further action," Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement.

Police in the English city of Cambridge investigated Shamsa's disappearance there two decades ago, when she was 19, but there was insufficient evidence to take any further action.

A review in 2017 came to a similar conclusion, but the force is now conducting a further review in the wake of the court ruling.

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire police noted that the standard of proof in criminal cases is significantly different to that of family court hearings.

"However, in light of the recent release of the judgement, aspects of the case will now be subject to review," she said.

The ruling that 70-year-old Sheikh Mohammed's actions, which include torture of his daughter Princess Latifa, potentially amount to breaking UK and international law, and could, therefore, impact relations between Britain and its close Gulf ally.

The High Court ruling comes after eight months of closed-door hearings and extensive witness statements have been published in a Fact Finding Judgement (FFJ). The FFJ confirms allegations put forward by his estranged wife Princess Haya, who fled Dubai last April with her two children allegedly fearing for her life.

The ruling also confirms that the notorious disappearances of two of Sheikh Mohammed's daughters from a previous marriage, Shamsa and Latifa, in 2000 and 2018 respectively, were  "ordered and orchestrated" by their father. The two women were forcibly returned to Dubai and remain "deprived of liberty", the court said.

"We've always believed that Cambridgeshire police needed to investigate Princess Shamsa’s alleged kidnapping for as long as there was credible evidence of wrongdoing," said Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director.

"[Thursday's] high court judgment would appear to support the case for a fresh – or re-energised – investigation into what happened to Princess Shamsa on a Cambridge street 20 years ago."

The Cambridgeshire police have said the investigation into Sheikha Shamsa's dissapearance is no longer active but two witnesses close to Latifa shraed with the Guardian that they had been interviewed by Cambridgeshire officers last year.

Tiina Jauhiainen, one of the interviewees, was on the yacht with Latifa in 2008 when it was intercepted by Indian adn Emirate commandos.

"I was interviewed by Cambridgeshire police last year. Officers also spoke to her cousin. I hope there will be further investigations," Jauhiainen said.

Jauhiainen, who was expelled from the United Arab Emirates, said: "I was told I would be getting a death sentence or life imprisonment when they took us back to Dubai. It was mental torture. I was told that if I wanted to I could jump into the sea because that would be an easier option than being sent back for interrogation in Dubai."

Foreign Office role

There have been questions over whether the Foreign Office intervened to stop the police investigation into Shamsa's disappearance because of Britain's close ties to Dubai.

The detective in charge, David Beck - now retired - was quoted in British media Saturday as saying he was told the case was being shelved because of "significant sensitivities".

At a hearing in the case in November, details of which were made public this week, Princess Haya's lawyer, Charles Geekie, said then British foreign minister Robin Cook expressed a "direct interest" in the probe.

The court ruling confirmed that Beck had been refused permission from the state prosecution service to visit Dubai to interview potential witnesses.

It also said the Foreign Office has information relating to that request, which it has declined to publish, citing concerns about the harm posed to UK-UAE relations.

"But it is not possible to find on the balance of probability that permission for Mr Beck to visit Dubai was refused because of the direct intervention of the FCO," the judgement said.

'Private family matters'

The judge made Thursday's ruling in January but Sheikh Mohammed, who was found to have "not been open and honest with the court", fought to prevent it from being made public. The UK Supreme Court quashed that attempt on Thursday, ruling that the findings were in the public interest.

According to the FFJ, Shamsa fled her family's UK estate in Surrey in 2000 aged 19 but was subsequently abducted on the streets of Cambridge by agents working for her father. Shamsa was allegedly injected with a sedative and forced back to Dubai where she has been held captive until today. 

Cambridgeshire Police investigating her disappearance requested to visit Dubai but were refused.

Latifa made two attempts to escape her father's family, in 2002 and 2018. Following the first attempt, she was held captive by her father in Dubai for more than three years. In the later attempt made when she was 32, Latifa was helped by friends to escape Dubai by boat. 

However, she was recaptured off the Indian coast and forcibly returned home, where she continues to be under house arrest. The judge ruled that allegations of serious physical abuse amounted to torture.

Latifa published a video on social media before her 2018 escape attempt, where she documented her situation and the abuse she had suffered for decades at the hands of her father.

"This ruling is a long-overdue step towards justice for Sheikha Latifa, who has been held incommunicado for two years now," commented Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East research director.

"Dubai and the UAE must now allow her to speak and travel freely, including seeking asylum abroad, if she wishes to do so. Throughout the hearing, Sheikh Mohammed has insisted these are 'private family matters' – but state-sanctioned abduction and inhuman treatment is not a family affair. It is a serious human rights violation, and a matter of international concern."

The court also found Princess Haya, the daughter of Jordan's late King Hussain, to have endured a serious campaign of harassment and abuse by Sheikh Mohammed and his staff before and after she escaped including having guns left on her pillow and an attempt to abduct her by helicopter.

Read more: Princess Haya could flee what many UAE women cannot

After marrying in 2004, Haya said she initially believed her husband's explanation that he had "rescued" his daughters, but grew suspicious as the years went by and voiced her concerns to Sheikh Mohammed.

Princess Haya moved to London last year and applied to the court for protective orders, using British laws intended to safeguard victims of forced marriage and domestic abuse.

The forced marriage protection was requested for her daughter, who she alleges her ex-husband was attempting to marry off to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The judge ruled the allegation unproven.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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