The United Nations in its own right, may not have the influence or power to secure the freedom of a person who has been kidnapped or detained without due process. They may not be able to act to stop human rights violations or even torture, and they may be slow to process submissions.
However, when combined with a campaign, litigation, media or all three, the United Nations can prove an effective tool.
When Princess Latifa and Hérve Jaubert were abducted from a US yacht in international waters, Radha Stirling ensured that an urgent application was made to the United Nations Working Group for Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary Detention, the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Along with the media campaign launched by Detained in Dubai, the United Nations sent an urgent communication to Dubai expressing their concern for Princess Latifa.
Hervé Jaubert was released within two weeks of his abduction and rendition. Stirling attended the United Nations in Geneva to present evidence of Sheikha Latifa’s abduction and provide her expert opinion on UAE human rights abuses, arbitrary detentions and torture.
The United Nations, for three years, has pushed the United Arab Emirates to comply with requests for information, proof of life and have recently recommended Princess Latifa be freed from her father’s custody in Dubai. While the United Nations is only a piece of the puzzle and the UAE can choose to contest its rulings or ignore them, the UN provides an authoritative ruling in matters that may otherwise be swept under the carpet, denied or argued. The rulings help to legitimise claims and can indeed be used as evidence in subsequent litigation.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions recently ruled that India should release British National Christian Michel. They deemed Michel had been denied due process when the UAE extradited him to India in what appeared to be a ‘quid pro quo’ deal following India’s assistance in the apprehension of Princess Latifa. India is now under pressure to release Christian Michel and to address their role in the abduction of Jaubert and Latifa.
Radha Stirling made submissions to the United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary Detention on behalf of British National Andy Neal, who had been detained in Dubai over false drugs allegations. Although the United Nations would have moved too slowly to effect his release, the submissions complemented the legal defence and media campaign. Neal was promptly exonerated and released.
Similarly, Karam al Sadeq is detained in the UAE where he has been subjected to human rights violations in order to secure his false confession and witness statements. A United Nations application is pending, alongside an English High Court action and media campaign.
Stirling is preparing an application for German national, Dieter Kellouche, who has been arbitrarily detained in the UAE at the whim of an influential Sheikh, who was able to circumvent due process in the emirate of Sharjah. Without Stirling’s diplomatic, legal, media and UN campaign, Kellouche would easily spend the rest of his life in prison.
Prisoners are often advised that the best things they can do to help themselves is to remain quiet and pray for leniency, clemency or a pardon. This advice often deters people who would benefit from more proactive methods and sometimes it takes them years of detention to come to that realisation. It is important to take expert advice from the onset while remembering that most lawyers, embassies and diplomats have their own vested interests or are experts in a narrow field that won’t give them the experience to be able to advise properly.
In short, the United Nations can be a useful mechanism to influence an outcome, but is insufficient to rely upon solely.
Radha Stirling prepares submissions and represents clients at the United Nations, supports multi-jurisdictional litigations, criminal proceedings, provides expert testimony, media and campaign direction.