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Eight UAE princesses to face trial in Belgium over “inhumane” treatment of servants

In 2008, eight princesses from the Al Nahyan family from the United Arab Emirates stayed at the Conrad Hotel in Brussels. On 29 July of that year, all of them were charged with exploiting servants while living there.

Princess Sheikha al-Nahyan and her seven daughters have been accused of trafficking servants into Belgium and treating them in an “inhumane” manner. The princesses travelled to the country regularly and brought at least 20 women with them to wait upon them hand and foot around the clock. One servant escaped the luxury suite and went to the police in 2008.

Deutsche Well reported that the women were in the country without visas, not provided with enough food or beds, and were forced to work long hours. The Belgian police launched an investigation and found the women were living in “inhumane conditions.” As a result, the 8 princesses have been accused of breaking labour laws and human trafficking. However, this case isn’t as simple to close as one would think.

The al-Nahyan family is one of the most influential families in the UAE. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, from the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, owns the Manchester City football club. The princesses family lawyers claim that the police violated their rights by searching their hotel rooms without permission; so a 9-year legal battle ensued.

Patricia LeCocq, spokeswoman for Belgian human rights organisation Myria told Deutsch Well: “The servants were not paid, they worked day and night and had to sleep on the floor. The princesses shouted at them and abused them continually.”

“If the court decides there is enough evidence to support a charge of human trafficking, the accused may have to pay compensation to their employees and may even face a prison sentence.

“But the problem is that this case is already several years old. Even if the princesses are convicted, chances are the verdict could be very mild.”

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