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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

India seeking favours from UAE after their extrajudicial return of Dubai's runaway Princess Latifa

India requests extradition of Christian Michel, after having breached international law in returning Princess Latifa to Dubai as a "favour" to strengthen diplomatic relations. But what is India doing to preserve the rights of Indians in the UAE who have been subject to wrongful imprisonment and human rights violations?

Of course the Indian government’s request to the UAE for the extradition of Christian Michel has to be understood in the context of India’s collaboration with the UAE in the kidnapping of Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum. What we are seeing is a trend between the two countries to dismiss international legal norms and protocols, and to instead engage in the politics of favours.

Indian officials are in the UAE to negotiate the extradition of Mr. Michel, while extradition is supposed to be a matter for the courts, not the work of diplomats. But, you see, the UAE enlisted the help of India to capture the escaped daughter of Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, last March. India defied international law, the government has been severely scandalized by the Indian Coast Guard raid on Latifa’s boat, and India is facing questions at the United Nations over their involvement. All of this has earned India enough political capital with the UAE that they can bypass normal legal processes. After all, Prime Minister Modi did not insist that the UAE adhere to standard extradition procedures when Sheikh Mohammed wanted his daughter forced back to the country; it would seem that India now feels entitled to reciprocal treatment when they want someone from the UAE.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai who is representing Princess Latifa, said “When Prime Minister Modi’s government justified their illegal involvement in the abduction of Princess Latifa, the rationale given was that it was in the national interest of India to cooperate. Well, hundreds of Indian nationals are wrongly jailed in the UAE, and hundreds of thousands more suffer abhorrent conditions in labour camps, in unsafe working conditions, and struggle to survive as employers confiscate their passports and often refuse to pay their wages; yet the Indian government chooses to send officials to the UAE over an extradition request, instead of using their new political capital to improve the lives of Indian expats”.

After India breached International Law for Sheikh Mohammed, the UAE owes them a debt of gratitude. The Indian government, however, is not using this accrued goodwill to fight for justice for their own citizens in the UAE who are being wrongfully imprisoned like Mr. Johnson M George who was arrested on January 15, 2018 for false allegations of embezzlement. All he was doing was his job in the legal department of the company and had no ability to even access the funds he was alleged to have embezzled. Shahid Bolsen, Partner at Detained in Dubai who headed up a successful campaign to release a Malaysian national said “Set ups like this are common and the same happened to Richard Lau but the Malaysian government intervened after a public campaign that lead to his release. The UAE is a dangerous place for Indians, businessmen are jailed without evidence, workers are enslaved and forbidden to leave the country. Is the UAE the kind of country that India should have violated treaties to help?”

The team at Detained in Dubai and Toby Cadman of Guernica International Justice Chambers are currently pursuing legal actions against both India and the UAE and are assisting the United Nations and enforcement agencies in their pursuit of this matter. Mr Cadman told Albawaba “The whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa is currently unknown, however, it is believed that she is in the custody of the UAE authorities, detained against her will. As a consequence, she is subject to Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance”, a disappearance India is jointly responsible for.

Radha Stirling continued, “the Modi administration must be held accountable for their actions in the case of Princess Latifa. They assisted the UAE to forcibly return a young woman who specifically told her Indian assailants that she was seeking asylum from torture and abuse. She told them she would rather die than be sent back to the UAE and she has not been heard of since. This act has seriously damaged India’s reputation in the area of human rights.

“It is extremely concerning to see both the UAE and India acting extrajudicially, without any regard for laws, whether international or local and to the extent of attacking a US yacht at sea. This kind of rogue behaviour leads to the deprivation of human rights for world citizens and is a dangerous precedent to set if it goes unchallenged.

"Since I founded Detained in Dubai, we have assisted in over 10,000 cases of legal abuse in the UAE, with many of the victims being Indian nationals. The Indian government should be demanding that the UAE uphold the rights of its citizens and work towards freeing anyone unjustly detained or enslaved, such as Mr Johnson George. In the time being, Indian nationals should be advised that doing business in the UAE is extremely risky and a common occurrence to be subjected to false allegations that lead to immediate detention with many being used as a scapegoat for a local partner who is the true criminal.”

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