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Missing Dubai princess: Amnesty accuses India of violating human rights, wants Coast Guard probed

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Rights group says Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum, who sought asylum, was intercepted by coast guard commandos off Goa coast and handed over to UAE.

New Delhi: Amnesty International Tuesday accused India of violating international human rights for turning over Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum — the daughter of the UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum — to Emirati forces after she sought political asylum in the country.

The rights advocacy group also urged the country to investigate the role of its coast guard commandos, who had allegedly intercepted the yacht that the princess was travelling in.

According to Amnesty International, Sheikha has been held incommunicado in an undisclosed location by the UAE since she was forcibly returned there on 4 March, 2018, with the help of Indian Coast Guard commandos.

Sheikha, who had managed to flee Dubai in February, was travelling with her close friend Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish national, aboard the yacht Nostromo, captained by French-US national Hervé Jaubert, along with three Filipino crew members.

On March 4, while the Nostromo was approaching Goa, Indian Coast Guard vessels allegedly forcibly boarded and commandeered the boat into international waters.

According to witnesses onboard, a squad of commandos deployed from the coast guard vessels beat Jaubert and the Nostromo crew until they collapsed, destroyed equipment, threatened everyone aboard with guns, and dragged Sheikha away as she screamed that she was claiming political asylum.

In its statement Tuesday, Amnesty said it considered the incident a violation of international human rights law by both India and the UAE, particularly of provisions dealing with arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance.

“Amnesty International calls on the UAE to immediately disclose Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum’s whereabouts. If she is deprived of her liberty, she should have contact with lawyers and loved ones and access to all fair trial guarantees,” the statement said.

It added that if Sheikha is only held for trying to flee the country or for any other reason incompatible with human rights standards, she should be immediately and unconditionally released and her right to freedom of movement, including travel abroad, should be respected.

“Given that she was last seen under the authority of state agents and that unofficial information indicates that she is being arbitrarily and secretly detained by the Emirate of Dubai, Amnesty International remains concerned that Sheikha Al Maktoum may be subject to enforced disappearance and fears for her safety,” it said.

‘Coast Guard assaulted crew, dragged away princess’

Amnesty has alleged that Indian Coast Guard personnel ignored Sheikha’s cries for a political asylum, raided the boat and arbitrarily detained her.

The Indian forces allegedly assaulted captain Jaubert and his crew despite them “offering no resistance”.

“Jaubert was beaten until he was unconscious and left in a puddle of his own blood,” the statement said.

The Indian Coast Guards then allegedly turned over Sheikha to Emirati officers, who had arrived by helicopter. They also allegedly ensured that some of the yacht’s tracking functions were not disabled, so as to allow them to track its voyage back to Dubai through the Indian Ocean.

On 20 March, Jaubert and his crew were released from the UAE. Jauhiainen was released two days later and flew home to Finland.

Pointing out that India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bars torture and ill-treatment, Amnesty called on the country to investigate the role of its coast guards in the entire episode.

“Amnesty International calls on India to investigate and hold to account all officials implicated in unlawful acts in the course of its raid on the Nostromo, including arbitrary detention and physical abuse which may rise to the level of torture,” the statement said.

 Six months on, princess remains missing

While Sheikha’s associates have been traced, she still remains missing.

The 33-year-old has made several attempts to flee the country.

In 2002, Sheikha attempted to escape to Oman but was reportedly held at the border, arbitrarily detained and held incommunicado, without legal process.

She was reportedly tortured and was not released for the next three years, following which her movements were restricted by the royal court.

In a leaked video before she attempted to reach Goa, she said that she was not allowed to leave the country and was accompanied by a “minder” wherever she went. She also feared that she would be silenced. “I’m making this video because it could be the last video I make,” she had said.

According to reports, Sheikha had planned to start a new life in America.

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