Some people think that they can get away with shocking crimes in full view of a watching world because they have money, power or influence, or in the case of those behind the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, all three. Might over right is seen far too often, so when a High Court judge in London ruled this week that the billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai kidnapped two of his daughters and threatened and intimidated one of his wives — he has had six — who feared that he was going to kidnap two more of his children, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussein fled to London from Dubai with the two children last year and it was none other than the sheikh himself who brought the action in the family division of the High Court to have them returned. No doubt he thought that his money, global influence and friendship with Queen Elizabeth II would help resolve his sinister and, let’s face it, grubby domestic problems. Instead, his plans backfired spectacularly; as his dirty linen was washed in public, the world watched in amazement.
The ruling by Sir Andrew McFarlane is hugely important in as much as we all now know how one of the world’s wealthiest individuals treats his family in private, while putting on quite a different face in public. The judgement was preceded by a Supreme Court decision to allow publication of the details of the case that Bin Rashid had so far managed to keep secret.
It seems that he has effectively imprisoned 39 year-old Princess, Shamsa, one of his 25 children, in Dubai for 20 years ever since she was snatched off a Cambridge street in 2000 after fleeing from her father’s Surrey estate. There is credible evidence that, back then, his influence was able to shut down a police investigation in the interests of lucrative trade relations between Britain and the UAE.
Furthermore, we also have details of how Princess Shamsa’s younger sister, Latifa, was seized on a yacht in the Indian Ocean by Indian commandos with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s knowledge and permission, before being taken back to Dubai.
Now, though, will the 70-year-old who visits Britain regularly and is a well-known face in the royal enclosure at Ascot, be able to swagger around town with impunity next time he comes to London? It is often said that there is one law for the rich and one for the rest of us, but it seems that Sheikh Maktoum’s lucky streak of trashing international law and getting away with it has run its course.
As a result of the High Court case in London, Princess Haya retains custody of her 12-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son in Britain. It is doubtful if even Bin Rashid will attempt any more kidnaps or criminal stunts on British soil, and there are those who hope that he could still face arrest if he comes back to Britain given the “very high order of seriousness” — in Judge McFarlane’s words — of the kidnap allegations.
No one should be above the law, especially when mistreating women and children. The issue is so serious, though, that we have to wonder what happens to ordinary UAE citizens who upset the odious and petulant royals if this is how a senior member of the ruling clique treats his own family. Sheikh Mohammed, remember, is also Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. The mind boggles.
According to its Constitution and enacted in law by Article 25, human rights in the UAE are supposed to ensure equitable treatment for all people, regardless of race, nationality or social status. However, from the many tales of injustice, torture, abuse and forced disappearance that make the news, we know that this is not the reality in the Emirates.
If the High Court hearing has revealed anything at all, it is that Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has zero respect for human rights and international law, and, sadly, that back in 2000 the British government of the day was prepared to look the other way as an innocent young woman was kidnapped off the streets of Cambridge and bundled away to the Maktoum family home in Dubai. The Prime Minister in 2000 was none other than Tony Blair, a man who has been bankrolled to the tune of millions of dollars by the UAE.
Justice was delivered in London yesterday, but now we need to see the long arm of the law reach out and hold everyone to account who is involved in this murky affair regardless of their power, influence, status or wealth. No prince or prime minister should ever be allowed to feel that he is above the law. That applies to Blair as much as Bin Rashid. It’s another item to add to his lengthy charge sheet should it ever materialise. We live in hope.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.