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Princess Latifa: UN 'still waiting' for evidence from UAE that she is alive

Recent footage showed the daughter of Dubai's ruler saying she was being held captive by her father
Friends of Princess Latifa say she has had little medical care and went over a year without a toothbrush (Screengrab/Sky News)

The United Nations has said it is still waiting for proof from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Dubai's Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is still alive.  

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) asked for the evidence nearly two weeks ago, after the BBC aired a documentary showing new footage of Latifa saying her father was holding her captive.

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The 35-year-old royal has not been seen in public since she tried to escape from Dubai in February 2018. 

OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters on Friday that his office had "not yet" received any evidence regarding Latifa's status from the Emiratis. 

"We've held discussions with representatives of the UAE government here in Geneva, but I don't have any particular progress to report," said Colville.

Last week, a letter from Latifa was handed to British police urging them to investigate her sister Shamsa's kidnapping and disappearance in Cambridge in 2000. In a handwritten letter given to Cambridgeshire police, Latifa said a new investigation could help free her sister.

Though it only reached British police last week, Latifa wrote her letter in 2019, according to the BBC, while she was being kept in a beachside villa guarded by roughly 30 police officers.

'My life is not in my hands'

In February, new footage made public by the BBC showed Latifa describing her detention in clips filmed in secret on a mobile phone. 

The princess, who is seen speaking with her back to a wall in a locked bathroom, says: "I'm a hostage, I'm not free. I am imprisoned in this jail. My life is not in my hands."

The new developments are the latest twists in a string of headline-grabbing stories involving Dubai's ruling family and its patriarch, Sheikh Mohammed, stretching back several years.

Last year, a British judge ruled that the sheikh, who is prime minister and vice-president of the UAE, kept both his daughters captive and kidnapped the two on separate occasions.

In 2018, Latifa escaped Dubai with the help of her friend, a Finnish capoeira instructor, Tiina Jauhiainen. Eight days later, when she had got as far as India's Malabar coast, Indian - then Emirati - forces violently boarded her boat and returned her to Dubai.

'Sheikha Latifa continues to improve'

In 2019, Jauhiainen was able to sneak a phone to Latifa, who has since been covertly filming herself.

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"I have been here ever since, for more than a year in solitary confinement," she said in the videos shared with the BBC. "No access to medical help, no trial, no charge, nothing."

The Dubai Royal Court has claimed she is safe and well, but friends say she has had little medical care and went over a year without a toothbrush. 

"Her family has confirmed that her highness is being cared for at home, supported by her family and medical professionals," said a statement released by Dubai after the BBC report. 

"Sheikha Latifa continues to improve, and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time."