For a long time the UK has seemed prepared to play down the disturbing allegations against its close ally, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The British government is now under increasing pressure to act, along with its European partners, and the US.
The harrowing claims by one of his daughters, Princess Latifa – apparently recorded on video in secret in captivity – and now broadcast by Sky, make a compelling case for Her Majesty’s government to do more say campaigners.
Rodney Dixon QC told Sky News “The UK government could take steps using laws against violators of human rights as they’ve done with some Saudi officials.”
Mr Dixon, who is helping present the video evidence published by Sky to the UN, says the British government could act to prevent individuals from travelling and have their assets seized.
He said he will soon be leading efforts to “make applications to the UK to impose sanctions in light of the fact that this has been going on so long.”
If the allegations are proven correct other governments may come under pressure to do the same.
Campaigners and lawyers are urging the United Nations to intervene and investigate the allegations.
Sheikh Mohammed denies the allegations against him. His aides have insisted Princess Latifa is living at home with her family.
The sheikh also denies allegations he ordered the abduction of another daughter, Princess Shamsa, twenty years ago on the streets of Cambridge.
But in 2019 British judge Sir Andrew MacFarlane concluded the sheikh was holding both Princess Latifa and her sister against their will, saying he maintained “a regime whereby both of these two young women are deprived of their liberty, albeit within family accommodation in Dubai“.
The United Arab Emirates and Dubai are key British allies and trading partners. The Sheikh’s love of race horses has made him friends with the Queen.
There are close military and intelligence ties between the two countries – and Britain sees gulf nations like the UAE as an important counterbalance to Iran.
But Britain also has a duty to stand by the principles and values it seeks to promote around the world. These allegations are potentially damaging to the UAE’s standing in the world and among its allies if proven true.
Following court cases involving the alleged abductions, Labour accused the Conservative government of impeding the criminal inquiry into Sheikha Shamsa’s disappearance.
Rodney Dixon told Sky News: “No one is saying we can’t have good relations with a number of countries that we trade with but that can never be done at the expense of upholding basic human rights standards.”
Speaking on the Princess Latifa case, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “This is a concerning case. While it is not one the UK is directly involved in, we will follow any developments closely.
“We routinely raise human rights issues with other countries, including with the UAE, and never shy away from those conversations when it is appropriate.”
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