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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 04:28 GMT 05:28 UK
Dubai rulers reject slavery case
By Julia Wheeler
BBC News, Dubai

Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum
The case against Dubai's ruler was filed in Miami where he has property
Dubai's ruling family says a legal case filed against it in the United States for allegedly enslaving thousands of young camel jockeys is baseless.

The allegations come in a class action filed in Miami by lawyers representing six unidentified parents and thousands of unnamed children.

It accuses Dubai's ruler, his brother Hamdan and 500 others of being involved in trafficking and enslaving children.

The ruling family says it has banned child jockeys and overhauled the sport.

The legal case accuses Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, his brother, Sheikh Hamdan and 500 others of being involved in trafficking and enslaving young children from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan and Mauritania.

Rehabilitation

This is the first time the ruling Maktoum family of Dubai has commented on the case which alleges tens of thousands of boys as young as three were kept in poor conditions against their will and forced to take part in camel races.

Robot jockeys on camels in Kuwait
Robot jockeys - seen here in Kuwait - are now used in the UAE
The Maktoums believe a US court has no jurisdiction over things which happen outside the US.

They say they have overhauled the sport, banned the use of child jockeys and helped Unicef in a rehabilitation programme for them.

Their representative, Dr Habib al-Mullah, says Dubai's rulers feel the efforts they have made to enforce regulations in the sport are being overlooked.

"I think they are a bit disappointed that after all the work that has been done in the UAE to clean this issue and to deal with the problem - with all the work that has happened with international organisations - they are being sued for the good work that they have done."

It has been illegal to use children as camel jockeys in the UAE since 1993, but rigorous enforcement of the law is relatively recent.

When the new racing season begins next month, remote control robots will ride the camels in place of jockeys.


SEE ALSO
Dubai's ruler accused of slavery
14 Sep 06 |  Middle East

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