Detained in Dubai warns Brits in Dubai may face retaliatory harassment
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Warning to British nationals in Dubai after ruler confirmed international criminal by UK High Court judgment in Princess Haya case.
Following the publication this week of a British judge’s finding that Dubai’s Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum ordered, organised and is culpable for the illegal abductions of two of his adult children, Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling cautioned that UK citizens in Dubai may be subject to targeted harassment by police and immigration authorities, as well as by the Emirati general public, in retaliation for the ruling.
“There is every reason to believe that British citizens living in or visiting Dubai are at heightened risk after the publication of Sir Andrew McFarlane’s ruling,” she said, “both the cases of Princesses Shamsa and Latifa demonstrated that the state apparatus of Dubai, specifically the security services, military and law enforcement, operate according to the personal wishes of Sheikh Mohammed, and he does not hesitate to mobilise them for vindictive and egoistic purposes. Furthermore, the police, prosecutors and judges in Dubai surely know without being told that any case filed against a British national at this time will proceed rapidly to conviction without the slightest scrutiny; if only to send a message to the UK government.”
Stirling expressed concerns that British citizens who are currently suffering wrongful detention in Dubai may also be subjected to abuse by guards and inmates, and that the FCO may be powerless to object.
“Abuse and violence are well-documented in Dubai’s police stations and the central jail; British citizen Lee Bradley Brown was murdered in police custody in 2011 and we have countless testimonies by UK and other foreign nationals about the prevalence of torture in Dubai’s detention facilities,” Stirling said, “In the wake of the McFarlane ruling, Dubai prison officials are likely to feel they have a ‘license to abuse’ British detainees in retaliation, and may even expect to be rewarded for such targeted violations by their superiors for what will be viewed as a show of fealty to Sheikh Mohammed. The FCO and consular officials will almost certainly be stonewalled by Dubai authorities in any effort they might make to intervene on behalf of British citizens.
“Sheikh Mohammed has few options for expressing his objection to the McFarlane ruling, but he will undoubtedly seek retribution against the UK for essentially identifying him as a kidnapper and torturer. One of the only methods available to him will be to put pressure on the British government by targeting our country’s citizens in Dubai.”
Stirling urged the FCO to update and increase its travel warnings to UK citizens going to the UAE. “Dubai was already a very risky place for British tourists and expats, and it just became considerably more dangerous.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai appointed by Princess Latifa, comments on what should follow the McFarlane ruling
While the ruling by Sir Andrew McFarlane that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was guilty of grave violations of international law and norms of human rights is not itself a legal indictment for those crimes, no one can doubt that it lays the groundwork for a serious criminal investigation against the Ruler of Dubai which could lead to him being formally charged.
If a British court has ruled that Sheikh Mohammed’s illegal abductions of his daughters Shamsa and Latifa must be considered in determining his fitness for custody of his children with Princess Haya bint Hussein in their divorce proceedings, then these crimes have been treated by the court as facts. The only logical step to follow is for Sheikh Mohammed to face an investigation and trial.
In light of the inevitability of criminal charges, the UAE must begin preparing for a smooth succession of power in Dubai. From the moment of Princess Latifa’s escape, the UAE strove to suppress the story, and Sheikh Mohammed executed the illegal military operation to capture Latifa, precisely because they knew her testimony would end her father’s reign. The actions he took, however, simply guaranteed those consequences.
With Sir Andrew McFarlane’s ruling, the UK has signalled, not only to the UAE, but to the broader Gulf, that the escalating lawlessness by governments in the region will no longer be allowed to continue with impunity. Dubai, and the Gulf are going to have to adapt to a new era of accountability, and the first order of business in this regard is the removal of Sheikh Mohammed from power, and acceptance of international justice over the kidnappings of Shamsa and Latifa.
Heads of state cannot behave like criminal kingpins, nor treat the government as their own private organisation in service to their personal interests. Every state is accountable to the international rule of law and must adhere to diplomatic norms; and when they fail to do so, other states must hold them to account.
The United Nations inquiry we initiated has been persistently stalled and stonewalled by the UAE. After submitting the original complaint and providing testimony, we have not seen any notable progress by the UN. The ruling by McFarlane opens up the avenue of a criminal investigation in the United Kingdom, and we believe this will prove to be the best course to pursue justice for both Shamsa and Latifa.
The UK must immediately re-open the investigation into the kidnapping of Princess Shamsa from British soil in 2000, as well as launch an inquiry into why the original investigation was aborted when police were eager to pursue the matter in the UAE, but were essentially shut down by the FCO.
Over more than 12 years, we have worked to support British citizens and other foreign nationals wrongfully detained and falsely accused in the UAE, and we have often experienced the conspicuous reluctance of the FCO to intervene even in cases involving gross miscarriages of justice against UK citizens. Political and economic interests cannot be allowed to supersede the rule of law and concern for human rights; if the FCO interfered in any way with the investigation into Shamsa’s abduction, we can only assume that the same attitude which precipitated such interference also impacts the FCO’s position regarding British victims of legal abuse in the UAE. This has to be addressed.
As an organisation, we have been warning for years that the government of the UAE was becoming increasingly lawless and belligerent, and that it posed an escalating risk to foreigners in the country, and indeed, a threat to regional stability with the potential of drawing other nations into breaching international norms of justice; as when Sheikh Mohammed recruited the involvement of India into the illegal abduction and rendition of Princess Latifa. Political entities have failed to hold the UAE to account and grievous crimes have been committed; we believe that accountability must now be the task of international law enforcement and the courts.
Sheikh Mohammed should stand down as the Ruler of Dubai, and take the stand in a court of law."