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Illegal seizure of the US flagged yacht carrying Sheikha Latifa on bid for asylum must be answered

A number of things have become clear over the past several days regarding the disappearance of Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum.

First of all, it is clear that she was who she said she was. Not only was this confirmed by endless individuals who know Latifa and were concerned about her safety; but also by the very fact that she was apparently apprehended BY the UAE in an extrajudicial raid on the yacht on which she was fleeing the country. Furthermore, she was traveling with her friend, Finnish citizen Tina Jauhiaien, who is known to have been a friend of the Sheikha for almost a decade; which was confirmed by Tina’s family and evidenced by records of correspondence via text messaging and photographs of the two together. There is no room for doubt regarding Latifa’s identity.

This brings us to the next point that has been made clear; the yacht of Herve Jaubert, the American flagged Nostromo, was in fact illegally intercepted in international waters, boarded, and commandeered either by the UAE, by the Indian Coast Guard, or possibly by a Private Military Company hired by the UAE. The vessel was taken by force to a military base in Fujairah, and everyone on board was held captive until the subsequent release of Jaubert and Tina Jauhiaien; which also means that Latifa herself is almost certainly still being held against her will by the very government she was attempting to flee.

There was absolutely no legal basis for stopping Nostromo, and no justification for holding its crew and passengers in custody. The release of the ship’s captain, Herve Jaubert, the release of Jauhiaien, and presumably the ship’s crew, clearly illustrate that even the UAE did not regard them as fugitives or otherwise guilty of any criminal activity that would potentially warrant the raid and seizure of the boat.

As a ship sailing under the US flag, Jaubert’s yacht falls under American jurisdiction, and any act of aggression against it constitutes an act of aggression against the United States itself. This is a tremendously belligerent act, clearly committed for the sole purpose of apprehending Latifa Al Maktoum, in defiance of the UAE’s treaty obligations, in defiance of International Law, and in defiance of Maritime Law; committed by a supposed ally of the United States.

This action requires a thorough investigation and a public explanation by the UAE. The action also appears to support the notion that Sheikha Latifa was neither lying nor embellishing when she made several serious allegations against her father, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in a video she recorded prior to her escape from Dubai.

Latifa said that she had no freedom in the UAE; she said that her sister, and that she herself, had been detained and tortured, forcibly drugged, on the orders of her father, for years at a time. Were these accusations baseless, Latifa would not have had to “escape” the UAE, but would have been free to travel as she pleased. And were these accusations baseless, the UAE would not have given priority to capturing Latifa to such an extent that they were willing to defy International Law to accomplish it. Obviously, the capturing and silencing of Sheikha Latifa mattered enough to the UAE that they did not hesitate to board and commandeer an American vessel, illegally detain a US citizen, a Finnish citizen and three Filipino citizens, if it was required in order to get Latifa in custody. This would hardly be the case if the Sheikha was not subject to restrictions on her movement, nor if she had no verifiable allegations against her father which could potentially see him criminally charged.

Finally, it is abundantly clear that Herve Jaubert and Tina Jauhiaien were only granted release from UAE custody due to the attention this matter has drawn from the international media, including social media. The campaign by Detained in Dubai to raise alarm over the disappearances of Sheikha Latifa, Jaubert and Jauhiaien, undoubtedly caused the UAE to free Herve and Tina. Had there been no media attention, and had no one ever known what had occurred, it is likely that the American and Finn would still be held incommunicado, just as Latifa is now.

There was a total media blackout in the UAE regarding this story, and even clumsy attempts to discredit the news when the Dubai Media Office republished old stories pertaining to a different Sheikha Latifa; apparently trying to imply that the missing Latifa had never left the UAE. Following the seizure of the Nostromo, and the subsequent release of Jaubert and Jauhiaien, the Emirates’ government controlled media launched an attack on Detained in Dubai in apparent retaliation for bringing attention to the story in the first place.

Fortunately, the Dubai censors do not hold sway over the global press, and Detained in Dubai was successful in bringing the story of Latifa’s disappearance to the world stage.

This series of events should make every western nation question the modern and liberal credentials of the United Arab Emirates, and indeed, question that country’s integrity as an ally.

Detained in Dubai is proceeding with its efforts on behalf of Sheikha Latifa, who at this moment may well be experiencing a repeat of what she and her elder sister allegedly suffered after their previous escape attempts. Sheikha Latifa must be free to leave the UAE, free to seek asylum in the US or elsewhere, and free to tell her story, not only to the media, but to a court of law.

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