Tag Archives: Mary Robinson

This morning.

The latest The Phoenix magazine.

On shelves now.


Via The Guardian:

Princess Latifa, a daughter of Dubai’s ruler who claims to have been held in captivity by her father since 2018, has asked UK police to re-investigate the kidnapping more than 20 years ago of her sister, Princess Shamsa, according to a letter reported by the BBC.

The BBC reported that in a letter handwritten in 2019 – but passed to Cambridgeshire police on Wednesday – Latifa says the police may be able to free Shamsa, who was abducted on the orders of her father when she was 19.

“Your help and attention on her case could free her,” Latifa reportedly wrote

Princess Latifa letter urges UK police to investigate sister’s Cambridge abduction (The Guardian)

From top: Mary Robinson on this week’s Panorama documentary about captive Saudi Princess Latifa on BBC 1; Grace Garvey

Mary Robinson’s brief appearance in Tuesday’s BBC Panorama documentary about missing Emirati Princess Latifa has raised more questions than it answers.

Robinson claims to have been misled by the princess’s family and says she felt ‘horribly tricked’ when photos of a private lunch she attended at the royal household were released to the world.

However, in a prior interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme less than two weeks after that lunch in December 2018, Robinson spoke about having filed a report on the visit to Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, saying:

” I sent her the three photographs that I was happy would be released to help the family to allow it to be understood that this is a family matter now and that she is in the loving care of her family.”

Furthermore, she managed to set aside her feelings at being a dupe to reiterate the official family line, that Latifa was troubled, vulnerable and receiving appropriate psychiatric care.

Mrs Robinson’s refusal to answer any further questions on the matter since then, until this week’s Panorama documentary, leaves us wondering what exactly caused her to feel hoodwinked.

She had agreed to the photographs being taken as proof of life – unlike Latifa who was a reluctant participant in the photo op; she had agreed to the photographs being released by the UN to show to the world that Latifa was still alive.

Presumably, her misgivings were caused by the photos being released by the UAE foreign ministry, and a mere nine days after the lunch.

Was she, on some level, feeling sheepish about accepting free flights and accommodation to the Arab state?  Was she embarrassed to be seen cosying up to an obscenely wealthy regime with poor human rights record? Or did she feel she had abused her former office as UN High Commissioner for human rights? We can but speculate.

Speaking to the Panorama team, Robinson said she had been misled by her friend Princess Haya, Latifa’s stepmother and sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, who in turn had herself been misled.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that Princess Haya is neither a trained lawyer nor human rights activist. She is the sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whom Latifa accuses of snatching her from international waters in March 2018 and falsely imprisoning her since. In other words, Princess Haya had skin in the game.

Lawyers are trained to be objective, told that objectivity is a professional value, and praised for their objectivity. Robinson owed Latifa – and the world – a higher duty of care than to be fobbed off with the ‘troubled young woman’ proposition. This is after all how families got rid of their headstrong daughters in bygone times. They were locked up and died in asylums. Or Magdalene laundries.

FreeLatifa is an international movement based around securing freedom for Latifa. It was set up by a Finnish national Tiina Jauhiainen, a close friend of Latifa’s who helped orchestrate her escape from Dubai in February 2018. She was on the ill-fated yacht when it was stormed by Emirati and Indian troops off the coast of India, kidnapping Latifa and bringing her back to Dubai.

The group feels that Robinson’s intervention – in a matter that was the subject of live legal proceedings at the UN – undermined the work of Michelle Bachelet.

They are at a loss to know why anyone familiar with UN human rights protocols in cases of enforced disappearances would pay a personal visit that could be used to manipulate media perception. They go so far as to question her bona fides, claiming:

‘Mary Robinson’s unwillingness to help Latifa raises questions about how much was she paid for participating in this Dubai government propaganda and about her role in supporting Latifa’s abductors.’

Criticisms levelled at Mary Robinson over the years centre on her apparent fascination with wealth, power and privilege, her need to keep the hoi polloi at bay, her lack of ‘the common touch’. Can she really have been so bedazzled by the oil billionaires’ bling that years of learning and experience went out the window?

Only one woman can answer that.

Grace Garvey is a Communications and Content Marketing Strategist. She is a former student of Mary Robinson’s at Trinity College.

This afternoon.

BBC Panorama has obtained secret video messages showing the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum imprisoned against her will.

Footage shows Princess Latifa saying she has been “a hostage” in “solitary confinement” for over a year “with no access to medical help”.

Meanwhile, Ex-UN rights envoy Mary Robinson, who had described Latifa as a “troubled young woman” after meeting her in 2018, now says she was “horribly tricked” by the princess’s family.

Via BBC:

The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and president of Ireland has joined calls for international action to establish Latifa’s current condition and whereabouts.

“I continue to be very worried about Latifa. Things have moved on. And so I think it should be investigated,” she said.

Before her 2018 escape attempt, Latifa recorded another video which was posted on YouTube after her capture. “If you are watching this video, it’s not such a good thing, either I’m dead or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation,” she said.

It was this that sparked huge international concern and calls for her release. The UAE came under intense pressure to account for her and a meeting was arranged with Ms Robinson.

She flew to Dubai in December 2018 at the request of her friend, Princess Haya, for a lunch at which Latifa was also present.

Via BBC:

Ms Robinson told Panorama she and Princess Haya had earlier been presented with details of Latifa’s bipolar disorder, a condition she does not have.

She said she did not ask Latifa about her situation because she did not want to “increase the trauma” of Latifa’s “condition“.

Nine days after the lunch, the UAE’s foreign ministry published photographs of Ms Robinson with Latifa, which it said was proof that the princess was safe and well.

Ms Robinson said: “I was particularly tricked when the photographs went public. That was a total surprise… I was absolutely stunned.”

Princess Latifa: ‘Hostage’ ordeal of Dubai ruler’s daughter revealed (BBC)

Previously: Princess Latifa on Broadsheet



Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Princess Haya; Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, daughter of Maktoum and former Irish president Mary Robinson from December 2018; after her attempt  to flee Dubai

Yesterday evening.

A UK family court judgment was published finding that the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum orchestrated the abductions of two of his children, Princess Shamsa from Cambridge in 2000, when she was 19, and Princess Latifa, from a yacht off the coast of India on March 4, 2018, when she was 32.

He also found that claims made by Latifa in a YouTube video from 2018, that she was detained, beaten and sedated under the instructions of her father from June 2002 to October 2005, after she attempted to reach  Oman, could also be relied upon.

Sir Andrew McFarlane made this finding after a legal battle followed Sheikh Mohammed’s sixth wife Princess Haya, 45, moving to London with their two children last April and making it clear she did not want to return to Dubai.

In a “fact-finding judgment”, which was handed down on December 11, 2019 but only published yesterday evening, Sir Andrew said he accepted the claims made by Princess Latifa in the YouTube video she created before her attempt to flee Dubai and posted by human rights lawyer David Hague on March 11th, 2018.

He found:

“I feel confident in relying upon all that Latifa has said in the video film and elsewhere both about her earlier abortive attempt to escape over the border to Oman and her subsequent detention.”

Former Irish president Mary Robinson was mentioned in the “fact-finding judgment” on two occasions.

This is because Latifa’s family released pictures on Christmas Eve in 2018 of Latifa with Mrs Robinson – claiming the photographs were evidence that Latifa was not being held against her will and to rebut “false” abduction claims.

Up until that point, it was known that Latifa had been seized from a yacht off the coast of India and had not been seen from since.

Following the release of the pictures, Mrs Robinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she had been invited by Princess Haya to “help with a family dilemma”.

She said:

“The dilemma was that Latifa is vulnerable, she’s troubled. She made a video that she now regrets and she planned an escape, or what was part of a plan of escape.

“I had lunch with her. She’s a very likeable young woman but clearly troubled, clearly needs the medical care that she is receiving.”

She said Latifa was suffering from “a serious medical situation” and receiving psychiatric care, but did not give further details. She also said Latifa’s family didn’t want her to “endure any more publicity”.

In his ‘fact-finding’ judgment, Sir Andrew McFarlane noted:

“The father [Sheikh Mohammed] also points to the fact, which the mother [Princess Haya] admits, that until at least mid-January 2019 she did not believe the assertion that Latifa and Shamsa were being ill treated and was taking steps, for example by inviting Mary Robinson to visit, to disprove the negative allegations.

The father states that he therefore finds it extraordinary that the mother is now seeking to exploit the very same allegations, given that she had never previously believed that they were true.”

He also noted:

“The mother states that on 10 December 2018 she decided to contact Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Irish President, whom she had known in previous times.

The intention was for Mary Robinson to visit Dubai in order to establish “proof of life” with respect to Latifa on behalf of the United Nations. The visit took place.

“Thereafter the mother visited Latifa regularly. After these visits she sought to discuss the situation with the father, who, she says, told her, repeatedly, that he considered that Latifa was a danger to herself and that she had to remain in her current accommodation.”

It’s been reported that Mrs Robinson sent a report on her Dubai visit to Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights and had also contacted Ms Bachelet’s predecessor, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein of Jordan and Kenneth Roth, the chief of Human Rights Watch about her visit to Latifa.

However, there is no mention in the fact-finding judgment of Sir Andrerw that he heard testimony from Mrs Robinson, sought to hear testimony from her, or sought to see Mrs Robinson’s communications with either/both Ms Bachelet or Mr Roth.


Mrs Robinson attended an event to mark the 250th anniversary of Trinity College’s Historical Society last night.

This morning, Seán McCárthaigh, in The Irish Times, reports that Mrs Robinson “declined to comment on the UK court’s ruling”.

He added:

“A spokeswoman for TCD said the university’s former chancellor was attending the event to speak solely on the subject of climate change and sustainable development.”

Robinson’s visit to Dubai in spotlight after UK court ruling (The Irish Times)

Sir Andrew McFarlane’s judgments can be read in full here

One of the images the family of Princess Sheikha Latifa (left) released last Christmas Eve claiming it was evidence that she was not being held against her will. Mary Robinson (right) described the princess as ‘troubled’

Previously: Remembering Latifa

Latifa, Haya And Rescuing Mary


At the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road, Dublin 4.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attended the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland Thanksgiving Lunch, sponsored by William Fry, during which former Irish president Mary Robinson was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award.

Mr Varadkar is quoted as having told those present: “Dr Mary Robinson has always been ahead of her time, whether campaigning for gender equality, human rights, or climate justice, and continues to be an inspiration to so many.”

Good times.

Previously: Latifa, Haya And Rescuing Mary 

Pics via American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and Ivana Bacik

This morning.

In Helsinki, Finland.

Members and supporters of Amnesty Finland hold a demonstration in support of Princess Latifa who has not been seen in public for 18 months, since she reportedly attempted to flee Dubai.

Her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen, who was part of the escape bid, recently told BBC that the princess told armed men she would prefer to be shot than to be taken back home.

Former Irish president Mary Robinson appeared in a ‘family video’ before Christmas 2018 intended to assure the public of Princess Latifah’s safety. In it, Mrs Robinson described the princess as ‘troubled’.

This morning Amnesty Finland tweetz:

Almost 17 000 people signed our petition that demands freedom for Princess Latifa. Huge thanks to each and everyone of you. We won’t give up until Latifa is free!

Related: Sheikha Latifa ‘preferred to be shot than go back home’ (BBC News, October 1, 2019)

Previously: Latifa, Haya And Rescuing Mary

Oh Mary

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

In Denial

This morning.

The Convention Centre, Dublin

Former President Mary Robinson opensthe  INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Research) conference.

Good times.

Previously: Latifa, Haya And Rescuing Mary

Last night.

Former President Mary Robinson urges the Irish Women Lawyers Association to manifest climate justice.

Good times.

Monday: Latifa, Haya And Rescuing Mary

From top: the Newspaper panel on yesterday’s Marian Finucane Show yesterday, including Fergus Finlay (second left); from left: Princess Haya, Sheikha Latifa , Mary Robinson; CEO of Detained in Dubai Radha Stirling and RTE’s Marian Finucane

Yesterday on RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane Show

The newspaper panel was joined by CEO of Detained in Dubai Radha Stirling.

The panel was made up of Mary Whelan, Former Ambassador to Austria and Netherlands; Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society; Ciaran Hancock, Business Editor at The Irish Times; Fergus Finlay, former CEO of Barnados; and Amii McKeever, Editor of Irish Country Living.

Ms Stirling, via phone, discussed the reported recent fleeing of UAE’s Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, with her children, from her husband and prime minister of the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

Princess Haya’s move follows the family of Princess Haya’s stepdaughter Sheikha Latifa releasing pictures on Christmas Eve of Sheikha Latifa with Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson – claiming the photographs were evidence that Sheikha Latifa was not being held against her will.

Up until that point, it was known that Sheikha Latifa was seized from a yacht off the coast of India the previous March and had not been seen from since.

Latfia’s sister Shamsa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was allegedly abducted from a street in Cambridge, England in 2000, by people associated with her father and brought back to Dubai.

During Sheikha Latifa’s bid to escape last year, she created a video in which she claimed Shamsa was a prisoner and had been tortured and mistreated.

Now that Princess Haya has fled, it has raised questions, for some, of Mrs Robinson’s move to visit Sheikha Latifa and pose for pictures with her before reporting that Sheikha Latifa was a “troubled” woman.

The discussion on Marian came ahead of Mrs Robinson’s scheduled appearance at an Irish Women Lawyers’ Association event on climate justice this Wednesday at Blackhall Place.

Ms Stirling explained that she had been on the phone to Latifa when she was seized from a US-flagged yacht off India. She said:

“She telephone me during the attack and said that she had heard gun shots outside, that she was frightened and asked me to please help. Then all communications with all people on board the yacht were terminated.

“And I didn’t hear from them until their later release.

“Unfortunately we haven’t heard from Latifa since then, except in the visit of Mary Robinson, attended in December at the request of Princess Haya.

“Obviously that was also widely publicised and she was criticised for having circumvented normal United Nations protocols because the UAE had not replied to UN requests to visit Latifa.

“And, instead, Princess Haya then asked Mary Robinson to come instead and she said that she was in the safe and loving care of her family.

“Now the world didn’t really believe that and now that we’re seeing Princess Haya coming out and saying that she was seeking asylum, that she’s fearful for her life and now she’s being taken to court by Sheikh Mohammed in the UK for the return of her children to Dubai.

“So she will obviously, during that court case, have to provide testimony as to the ill-treatment of Latifa if she’s to prevent the children from being sent back to Dubai.”

Following Ms Stirling’s comments, Ms Finucane played a clip of a previous interview Ms Finucane carried out with Princess Haya last January – in which she explained the reasoning behind her invitation to Mrs Robinson.

In the same interview, she said Latifa was a “vulnerable” woman and she was “receiving the love and protection of all of us”.

Ms Finucane put to Ms Stirling that Princess’s Haya had a “ring of sincerity”.

Ms Stirling responded:

“I would think so but given that she is in the position of being required, probably, to give that sort of testimony and now, with her subsequent actions and reports in the media saying that, following that interview, she investigated further into the case of Latifa and discovered things that she obviously didn’t like.

“She perhaps discovered the abuse, discovered that she was being imprisoned and you have to remember that Princess Haya apparently hadn’t seen Latifa since that attack, except for that single day [with Mrs Robinson] and didn’t see her after that one visitation.

Ms Finucane told Ms Stirling that Mrs Robinson has a “very distinguished record as a lawyer and a human rights lawyer”. She then put it to Ms Stirling: “But you’re very cross with her about this?”

Ms Stirling said:

“Well given that it circumvented usual UN protocols where they would send a team of people who are trained to see whether Latifa was under duress during that meeting and Mary had a meeting with Latifa for several hours, or two or three hours perhaps, and then came out with a report saying she’s absolutely fine.

“And, clearly, from Latifa’s testimony, she’s never been fine in the custody of her family.”

Asked for his opinion on the matter, Fergus Finlay, who worked with Mrs Robinson during her presidential campaign, said, on the face of it, her intervention seems “odd” given she’s not a medical expert.

But he said anyone who has worked with her wouldn’t question her integrity “for a second”.

He said:

“I don’t understand this story. It seems incredibly complex and arcane.

“And, you know, all sorts of peculiar elements – divorce and acrimony and so on are tied up in it aswell. And obviously huge amounts of money at play.

“And it may be that Mary Robinson made an error of judgement in being dragged into the middle of it. I’d be amazed if anyone would question her good faith in the matter though.”

Mr Finlay later added:

“I’m really struggling to figure out how this story fits in and it may be my own stupidity, it feels very much like I’m being asked to comment on the third series of Dallas – never having watched the first two series. I mean it’s and incredibly complicated story of divorce and money and bitterness and so on…

“But I…is it more than that? Is it really more than that in this particular case?”

Later on during the discussion, Ms Stirling said:

“The issue is, in having done that [Mary Robinson visiting Latifa], Latifa’s case could have potentially been closed as far as the investigation is concerned. And the UAE, under such public scrutiny, with such disbelief over Mary Robinson’s report, should then cooperate with the further requests that the UN has made of them for visitations with Latifa.

“And they simply haven’t responded – not even to a request for proof of life.”

Ms Finucane asked Ms Stirling, given there are reports of Princess Haya seeking protection, not trusting the police, and fearing for her life, if there is the possibility that the story is “getting into the realms of the unbelievable”.

Ms Stirling disagreed.

She said:

“No I really don’t think we are. What we’re seeing is an increase in belligerent behaviour, coming from the Gulf Region. We’re seeing Saudi able to kill Khashoggi in an embassy in Turkey, we’re seeing an attack on an international yacht, we’re seeing, previously, his two children have been seized from outside the UAE jurisdiction.

“And I would say that Princess Haya is extremely, and also, obviously, his children…he has a history of unlawfully, extrajudicially returning his children back to the UAE. So I can understand why they would be on complete lockdown with extreme security.”

Ken Murphy, of the Law Society, referred to reports in yesterday’s papers, before saying”

“All I can say is, having known every little about this story until we began to…it is becoming more and more fascinating.”

Listen back in full here

Previously:  Oh Mary

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

In Denial