A family court in the United Kingdom has judged, on the civil standard, that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai orchestrated abductions of two of his daughters and subjected his wife to a campaign of intimidation after she advocated for her daughters’ freedom.
In April 2019, the sheikh’s former wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, fled to London with their two young children, and raised allegations regarding the sheikh’s treatment of their family.
In 2000, one daughter, Sheikha Shamsa, was abducted by agents of the sheikh in the UK and forcibly returned to Dubai where she remains in captivity.
Another daughter, Sheikha Latifa, has attempted twice to escape the sheikh’s control. After an attempt in 2002, the sheikh imprisoned Sheikha Latifa in Dubai for over three years. In 2018, Sheikha Latifa paid a Frenchman thousands of dollars to take her to India, hoping to eventually claim asylum in the United States, but the sheikh’s forces abducted her off the Indian coast and forcibly returned her to Dubai. She claims that she has been exposed to constant torture under house arrest, including solitary confinement in the dark, and regular beatings
In a viral YouTube video, Sheikha Latifa described the restrictions that drove her to flee: “I’m not allowed to drive. I’m not allowed to travel or leave Dubai at all. I can’t. I haven’t left the country since 2000. I’ve been asking a lot just to go traveling, to study, to do anything normal. They don’t let me.”
In response to Princess Haya questioning the treatment of their daughters, the sheikh orchestrated a series of episodes to intimidate his wife. The court determined that the sheikh arranged for Princess Haya to be abducted via helicopter, instructed staff to leave guns in her bedroom, divorced her without her knowledge, threatened to abduct their children, and published threatening notes about her online.
The sheikh has denied all allegations, arguing that all episodes were efforts to protect or rescue his daughters. Conversely, human rights advocates welcome the court’s judgement, arguing that the sheikh’s treatment of his daughters and wife likely violate international human rights norms.