Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum - Question

– in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 17th March 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated 12:30 pm, 17th March 2021

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the United Nations about the reported detention of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the UK has no direct involvement in this case, but we are aware of the allegations surrounding Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has asked the UAE for further information and for proof of life. We have not had discussions with the UN regarding this, but we are supportive of the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and will continue to follow developments closely.

Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

My Lords, following the public statement last month from the Foreign Secretary that he was looking for proof that Princess Latifa was still alive, could the Minister indicate what evidence the Foreign Secretary has now received in relation to this matter? Have concerns been expressed to the United Arab Emirates over its questionable human rights record and, if so, has there been any particular outcome?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have said, this is a concerning case. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has asked for proof of life from the UAE mission in Geneva. We understand that the UN is yet to receive a reply, but we will continue to monitor developments closely. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said, we would welcome confirmation that Sheikha Latifa is alive and well.

Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Conservative

My Lords, is my noble friend familiar with the account that was provided last month by Sheikha Latifa about the conduct of Indian armed forces in her capture and forced return to Dubai, including the use of tranquillizers and India’s failure to consider her claim for political asylum? What representations have been made to India about its lack of transparency or adherence to international conventions and protocols in its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

We are aware of the allegations made by Sheikha Latifa to which my noble friend refers. If an incident involved a UK-flagged vessel, it would fall under the UK’s jurisdiction under international law. However, this alleged incident did not involve any UK-registered vessels or British nationals, so the UK does not have a direct involvement in this case.

Photo of Lord Hain Lord Hain Labour

Why has the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, not been prosecuted for kidnapping his daughter Princess Shamsa from UK jurisdiction in Cambridge and for continuing to hold hostage his other daughter, Princess Latifa? Are the Government turning a blind eye to the many cases of flagrant abuse of women in Dubai because Sheikh Mohammed is a close friend and ally of Britain with property here?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Lord refers to the case of Sheikha Shamsa. Criminal matters are a matter for the police. An investigation was conducted by Cambridgeshire Constabulary, which is of courses operationally independent, and the Government had no role in that investigation or its outcome. The UK believes that all states, including the UAE, need to uphold international human rights obligations. We have a close relationship with the UAE, which means that we can raise issues where needed.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, the Integrated Review says that we will

“shape the international order of the future” and that global Britain is showing

“a renewed commitment to the UK as a force for good in the world”.

Does that include defending the rights of women and girls in the UAE? The Minister appears to be saying that we have not raised this case with the Government of the UAE.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Integrated Review indeed sets out, as does my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s speech today in Aspen, how we want the UK to be a force for good in the world, defending democracy and human rights. In this case, we are raising the matter through the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and we continue to follow developments closely.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hain mentioned the wider abuse of women in the UAE. I draw particular attention to its labour law, which excludes from its protection domestic workers, who have faced a range of abuses, including unpaid wages, confinement to house, work days of up to 21 hours and physical and sexual assault. What are the Government doing to address this issue and raise with the authorities the need to protect domestic workers?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, one of the pillars of the Integrated Review is our vision for the UK as a force for good in the world, defending democracy and human rights, including championing gender equality. Of course, our world-leading Domestic Abuse Bill sets an international example and will be further considered on Report in your Lordships’ House today.

Photo of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Non-affiliated

My Lords, this is indeed an unfortunate matter. The UAE is a friendly and close ally of this country and it is well worth expending some capital to keep it that way. I have been impressed by its green policy plans moving forward and hope that the UK can work closely with it and assist in that regard. Can the Minister assure noble Lords that every diplomatic effort is being made satisfactorily to resolve this matter, taking account of course of the cultural differences that no doubt exist between the two states?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

We have a close relationship with the UAE, which means that we can raise issues directly with it. The noble Lord is right to refer to the work that it is doing on the environment. The Prime Minister met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, in December, and they agreed to strengthen our ties across a range of areas, including green technology, infrastructure and defence.

Photo of Baroness Sheehan Baroness Sheehan Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development)

My Lords, last year the judgment in the UK family court case brought by the sixth and youngest wife of Sheikh Mohammed was that, on the balance of probabilities, the Sheikh had conducted a campaign of fear and intimidation against Princess Haya and had ordered the abduction of his daughters Princesses Shamsa and Latifa. What representations have our Government made to the ruler of Dubai that he will make no attempt to remove his former wife and their children from the UK against their will?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The civil court proceeding to which the noble Baroness refers is a private matter between two individuals and the UK Government have no involvement in it.

Photo of Lord Birt Lord Birt Crossbench

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, referred to reports that Sheikha Latifa was abducted in international waters with the help of Indian special forces. If that is the case, would such action be lawful and has the Foreign Office raised the matter with the Indian Government?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as that alleged incident did not involve any UK-registered vessels or British nationals, it does not fall under the UK’s jurisdiction under international law. Accordingly, we have not raised it with the Government of India.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, building on the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, I refer to the 80% of the UAE population who are low-paid migrant workers. What representations have been made on the fate of what seem to be at least hundreds of women a year, including rape victims, who are prosecuted and jailed under the laws against extra-marital sex? What representations have been made on the impact of those laws not only on migrant workers, but also on women across the UAE population generally?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we have a close relation with UAE and we are therefore able to raise matters directly with it. The Integrated Review, to which I have referred, sets out the UK’s policy and stance to make us a force for good in the world.