UAE royals face camel racing lawsuit

A lawsuit accusing rulers of the United Arab Emirates of enslaving and forcing tens of thousands of young boys to work under brutal conditions as camel jockeys over the past three decades has been filed in the US.

    Children as young as eight have raced camels in the UAE

    The civil lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed last week by unnamed parents of boys as young as two years who were allegedly abducted, enslaved and sold to serve as camel jockeys.

    The lawsuit claims that the boys were taken largely from Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere, held at desert camps and forced to work in the UAE and other Gulf nations.

    "The defendants robbed parents of their children and boys of their childhoods, their futures and sometimes their lives, for the craven purposes of entertainment and financial gain," the lawsuit alleged.

    It claims some boys were sexually abused, given limited food and sleep, and injected with hormones to prevent their growth.

    Royals targeted

    The lawsuit said Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the deputy ruler, were the most active perpetrators of the crimes.

    "Sheikh Muhammad and Sheikh Hamdan treated their camels better than they treated their slave boys for the simple reason that the camels were far more valuable," the lawsuit said.

    It was filed in Miami because the members of the royal family maintain hundreds of horses at farms in Ocala in Florida, and because there is no venue outside the US in which the plaintiffs can possibly get redress for being trafficked internationally and enslaved.

    John Andres Thornton, the Miami Beach-based co-counsel for the children, said the ruler of Dubai had been served with the lawsuit on Monday while buying horses in Kentucky.

    Camel racing is a popular Arab sport, and using children as camel jockeys was banned by the UAE in 1993, but young boys could still be seen riding in televised races for years afterwards and up to 30,000 children are believed to have been enslaved for such purposes.

    The problem was highlighted in the US state department's June 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report.

    Calls to the UAE embassy in Washington were not answered, 
    with no possibility to leave a message after hours.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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