The princesses were accused of holding more than 20 servants they brought with them on a 2008 visit in near slavery. But they were acquitted of the more serious charge of inhumane treatment.
The princesses had denied all the charges. Their lawyer, Stephen Monod, said he was “satisfied to note that the Belgian justice has appropriately assessed this case which has generated many misconceptions for nearly 10 years”.
Sheikha Hamda al-Nahyan and her seven daughters did not attend the trial and rights activists said it was highly unlikely that the UAE would extradite them had they been jailed.
The case came to light when one of the servants escaped from the hotel where the princesses had hired a floor of luxury suites.
They said they were forced to be available 24 hours a day, had to sleep on the floor, were never given a day off, were prevented from leaving the hotel and were forced to eat the princesses’ leftovers.
The princesses are relatives of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, pictured here visiting the British Royal family in 2013
But the case took nine years to get under way, partly due to legal challenges to proceedings by the defence. Myria, a Belgian rights group which helped bring the case to court, said the importance of Friday’s judgement “can hardly be overstated”.
“Not because it is the end stage of a procedure that has been epic in length and complexity, nor because the location of the transgression was a prestigious hotel and the main perpetrators princesses.
“Domestic personnel hailing from all over the world, employed in an administrative and social limbo, in a secluded area presumed beyond the reach of the rule of law, were heard in a court of law and recognised as victims of human trafficking.”
At the time of the trial, Nicholas McGeehan, an expert on migrant workers in the Gulf for Human Rights Watch, told the BBC that it would be “hugely significant” if one of the wealthiest families in the world was publicly linked with trafficking and slavery.
He argued that despite being abolished in law, domestic slavery continues in Gulf states – “perpetuated by ruling elites for whom it serves an important societal purpose in conferring status”. He added: “It’s top-down and tolerated.”
David Haigh, the former managing director of Leeds United Football Club and himself a survivor of torture of the UAE said “the UAE rulers demand visitors to their countries respect their laws, yet they deem that their citizens and especially their ruling family members can ignore the laws of every other county and the human rights we in the west cherish. Sadly, as I experienced first-hand, many Brits and westerners are “paid off” to “look the other way” when they become aware of such flagrant human rights abuses. Alarmingly this behaviour is all too often with many of the bastians of the British community accepting jobs working for the Dictators that rule these countries.
One prevalent example of this is where retired British judges are flown in to preside over PR driven, sham, mini courts such as the Dubai International Financial Centre Court (“DIFC”). IN that court Sir David Steel a former English High Court judge is the Deputy Chief Justice, and in another example the current High Court judge Sir Andrew Smith who is also a judge at the Abu Dhabi financial Centre Court to name just two “.
Mr Haigh Further went on to say “The laundering of the UAEs and the wider region horrific and continuing record on breaches of human rights is something that must be stopped and if Sir David Steel and Sir Andrew Smith wish to do it they should give back their titles of British Honour, their judicial pensions and in the case of Sir Smith – resign” Said Haigh
“The only way we will be able to protect the poor, defences worker from such abuse, for they care not for the rights of humans, is to hit Dubai and other such states where it hurts, their pride and their pockets. We can do this in many ways, including by holidaying elsewhere, rejecting such dictatorships sponsorship money.”
International human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long documented cases of violations concerning the rights of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates, often stating that they work in “conditions close to slavery” and are basic workers’ rights. Campaigners will no doubt claim that the above case is but one example of the exploitation and abuse that Emirati elite subject their employees to on an almost daily basis in the UAE.
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For more information regarding the original case, please see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39895427 ; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/uae-princesses-eight-al-nahyan-belgium-trafficking-servants-united-arab-emirates-inhumane-treatment-a7731911.html