As I understand it, Princess Haya is moving legal action in the UK against her husband, the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

As he is a chief of state, isn't he outside of the jurisdiction of a foreign tribunal due to diplomatic immunity? What legal basis does the princess' action have? What power does the court in the UK have over the enforcement of the decision in this case? Can they only enforce parts of it?

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    This reads less like a question and more like a persuasion piece. The questions about jursidiction could better be asked on Law.SE (minus the polemics). The last paragraph assumes that the UK government is providing funding, but no justification is provided for this claim. Check your assumptions and then try rewriting this question. Mar 6, 2020 at 15:50
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    I wavered over voting to close this, because it really does sound like a persuasion piece rather than a question. I think it needs some hefty editing to be valid.
    – Dan Scally
    Mar 6, 2020 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


Sheikh Mohammed sued his wife for custody of his children, while both she and the children were in the UK. Naturally, the UK has jurisdiction. Princess Haya made various allegations in response (kidnapping, torture), which would plainly be criminal behaviour, if true. Sheikh Mohammed would have immunity from criminal charges relating to these but the court would obviously take the allegations into account, to the extent it finds them credible, on a 'balance of probability' basis.

As for the UK taxpayer, foreign nationals spending large amounts of money in the UK courts is bringing money to the UK. It seems likely the taxpayer makes a profit overall. And even if not, it's not a case of forum shopping but a case that plainly belongs in the UK.


The recent High Court judgement on the case in question can be found here, where it has decided that the fact finding judgement decided upon in December 2019 should be made public. In particular, it should be noted that this is not a criminal trial, but proceedings in family court, which has led to a so-called Fact Finding Judgement (FFJ). These take place to establish as fact allegations, which may or may not be criminal in nature, so that they can be used in a family court case. The family court case in question is Sheikh Mohammed suing his wife for custody of their children - not the other way around:

On 14 May 2019 the father commenced proceedings in England and Wales under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court seeking orders for the children to be returned to the Emirate of Dubai.

As he is a chief of state, isn't he outside of the jurisdiction of a foreign tribunal due to diplomatic immunity?

This is not a foreign tribunal, but a fact finding hearing ordered as part of a family court case. In addition, as the Sheikh initiated the proceedings that have led to this fact finding hearing in the first place, he has put himself under the jurisdiction of the court by default.

You are correct that in general, under international law, heads of governments and states are granted immunity from judicial proceedings, however, as stated in the linked judgement, the Sheikh has signed a waiver of immunity in this case.

What legal basis does the princess' action have?

The princess has made certain allegations that are the subject of the recent judgement. The legal basis that this has is that her allegations have been acknowledged to be factual by the High Court, allowing them to be presented as fact by the Princess in the Sheikh's proceedings against her.

What power does the court in the UK have over the enforcement of the decision in this case? Can they only enforce parts of it?

With regard to the FFJ, the court only has the power to establish the allegations as fact. There is no enforcement to be made. Whether this fact finding judgement will result in criminal proceedings remains to be seen - Cambridgeshire police reviewed their investigation of this case in 2017 and confirmed that it was no longer active due to lack of evidence, but reserved the right to reopen the case if new information came to light. The Sheikh is unlikely to waive his right to immunity in this case, however.

Now that the allegations have been established, they can be used in the family court case initiated by Sheikh Mohammed, again, due to the immunity waiver he has signed. This makes it rather unlikely that the Sheikh will succeed in his private legal action against the Princess.

Why are UK taxpayers funding this trial?

Funding of an independent judiciary is key to upholding a functioning democracy. In addition, the two parties in the case are private individuals, so they are responsible for their lawyers' fees.

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