The Foreign Secretary has called footage of the ruler of Dubai’s daughter “very distressing” after the princess accused her father of holding her against her will.
Dominic Raab said people would want to see that Princess Latifa Al Maktoum is “alive and well” after she said in secretly recorded videos that she feared for her life.
The princess has accused her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, of holding her hostage in Dubai since an attempt to flee the emirate in 2018.
Video messages recorded on a mobile phone, obtained by the BBC’s Panorama, show the princess, now 35, crouched against a wall in a bathroom at the “villa jail” where she claims to be being detained.
“I have watched the Panorama footage – it is troubling, it is obviously very distressing to see that footage,” Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There is no direct UK locus, it is not like we are representing a British national; on the other hand, of course we are concerned by it.”
Asked if he would support seeing “proof of life” of the princess, the minister told Sky News: “I think, given what we have just seen, I think people would just at a human level want to see that she is alive and well, of course.
“I think that is a natural instinct and we would certainly welcome that.”
Mr Raab said the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights will be following up on the case with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the “proper course” of action to monitor these developments.
Appearing on Sky News on Wednesday morning, he said: “I have always raised human rights issues, I always do, with foreign ministers, with the ambassadors.
“I think the right thing, given what the United Nations has said, is to follow very closely, and we are obviously always supportive of, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
“I think that is the proper course right now, to follow those developments quite closely.”
Asked if actions such as freezing assets and travel bans could be taken against those thought to be involved, Mr Raab said sanctions cannot be applied “willy-nilly”.
“It’s not as simple as saying ‘Well, we could apply sanctions’,” he told Today.
“There is a very strict legal threshold. So, for example, on the Magnitsky sanctions, which I introduced, they can be applied – asset freezes, visa bans – where there is evidence of torture, or forced labour, or an extrajudicial killing of some description.
“But it’s not simply the case that we can willy-nilly, if you like, just slap sanctions on individuals.”
In video messages to friends, obtained by the BBC, Princess Latifa said she is a “hostage” and that the villa “has been converted into a jail”, with the windows “barred shut”.
She added: “Every day I am worried about my safety and my life, I don’t really know if I’m going to survive this situation.
“The police threatened me that I’ll be in prison my whole life and I’ll never see the sun again.
“I am really reaching a point now where I’m just getting so tired of everything… I just want to be free.”
Last year the High Court in London found that her father, Sheikh Mohammed, “ordered and orchestrated” the abduction and forced return to Dubai of Princess Latifa twice, in 2002 and again in 2018.
Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai Royal Court have claimed she is safe in the loving care of her family.