The daughter of the Dubai ruler claimed in a disturbing video she is being held hostage in a "villa prison".
update 2/19/2021 7:32 AM
The UN has ordered the United Arab Emirates to provide proof Princess Latifa is still alive.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights demanded more information about the Princess's current situation.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell told an online briefing on Friday that it had approached the country's permanent mission in Geneva, requesting proof of life.
"We raised our concerns about the situation in light of the disturbing video evidence that emerged this week," she said. "We requested more information and clarification about Sheikha Latifa's current situation."
"Given the serious concerns about Sheikha Latifa, we have requested that the government's response comes as a matter of priority. We did ask for proof of life,' she said, adding her office was continuing to monitor the situation closely.
In response on Friday, the UAE Embassy in London told Sky News in a statement the princess was being "cared for at home".
"In response to media reports regarding Sheikha Latifa, we want to thank those who have expressed concern for her wellbeing, despite the coverage which certainly is not reflective of the actual position," it read.
"Her family has confirmed that Her Highness is being cared for at home, supported by her family and medical professionals.
"She continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time."
original story 2/16/2021 1:03 PM
A Dubai princess has been seen for the first time in years — in videos she claims to have secretly recorded in a locked bathroom.
Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, claims in the clips she is being held hostage in a "villa prison".
Close friends of the 35-year-old made the decision to release the clandestine messages to the BBC, after they lost all contact with her and became further worried about her welfare.
"I'm doing this video from a bathroom because it's the only room with a door I can lock. I can't lock the door to my room, there's no key," the Princess says in one of the clips, broadcast on BBC's Panorama.
"I'm in a villa... I'm a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail. All the windows are barred shut, I can't open any window. There's five policemen outside and two policewomen inside the house. And I can’t even go outside to get any fresh air."
"I don't know when I will be released and what the conditions will be like when I am released."
"Every day I'm worried about my safety and my life. Don't really know if I'm going to survive the situation. The police threaten that I'll be in prison my whole life and I'll never see the sun again."
"I'm really reaching a point now where I'm just getting so tired of everything. It's like a circus. I don't want to be a hostage in this jail villa. I just want to be free. I don't know what they are planning to do with me, I really don't know."
"So the situation is getting more desperate every day. I am just really, really tired of this now."
According to the BBC, Latifa previously tried to escape in 2018, but was recaptured in dramatic fashion.
Before making the long-planned bid for freedom, she recorded this video, which was posted to YouTube after her reported capture:
With the help of her capoeira instructor, Tiina Jauhiainen, she had boarded an inflatable boat and was towed via jet ski to international waters, where they were met by French businessman Herve Jaubert aboard a US-flagged yacht.
But eight days later the yacht was reportedly intercepted off the coast of India and boarded by commandos, who used smoke grenades to flush the princess out of her hiding place in a bathroom below deck, while holding the crew at gunpoint.
They returned to Dubai, where Jauhiainen and the crew were detained for two weeks.
In her videos, recorded on a phone she had secretly been given, Latifa detailed how she battled back against the soldiers, kicking and fighting, biting one commando's arm until he screamed. She said she was then tranquilized and carried onto a private jet, and didn't wake up until she was back in Dubai.
News of the incident at the time sparked international concern for Latifa's welfare; the United Arab Emirates fell under intense pressure and eventually agreed to a meeting with a UN rights envoy, former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Robinson said that ahead of the meeting she'd been informed by the palace of the princess's bipolar disorder — which she later discovered she did not have. She said she never asked Latifa about the alleged situation at the lunch because she didn't want to "increase the trauma" of her "condition".
But nine days after the meeting, the UAE released photos of Robinson and Latifa together at the lunch, and used it as proof the princess was okay.
"I was particularly tricked when the photographs went public. That was a total surprise... I was absolutely stunned," said Robinson, who has since been pushing for an investigation into her welfare.
The meeting was the last time Princess Latifa was seen. Her friends who have been pushing for her release are even more concerned now that the secret video communication has gone silent.
According to Jauhiainen, "a lot of time has passed" since contact was lost. "I feel that she would want us to fight for her, and not give up," she said after making the decision to release the video to Panorama.
The governments of Dubai and the UAE did not respond to a request for comment from the BBC.