Skip to comments.U.A.E. may get U.S. help to fend off major lawsuit
Posted on 07/17/2007 8:30:02 AM PDT by BGHater
Leaders of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) may soon see a major lawsuit against them dismissed, thanks to the U.S. government.
Last Thursday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a notice in U.S. District Court in Miami of its potential participation in the lawsuit, which alleges that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, U.A.E.s prime minister and vice president, and his brother, Hamdan, U.A.E.s finance minister, enslaved boys as jockeys in camel races.
With the prospect of federal intervention, the lawsuit may be dismissed. After the suit was filed in September 2006, the U.A.E. leaders hired a camp of lobbyists, public-relations consultants and attorneys in Washington to push the Bush administration to weigh in on the case through a statement of interest. The effort has cost the sheikhs more than $3.5 million so far, according to the latest records filed with the Justice Department.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga is considering a motion by the U.A.E. to dismiss the case. But the Emirates may have won more time with Thursdays notice, in which Justice Department lawyers asked Altonaga to consider deferring the motion for 60 days so that government attorneys can consult further on whether they will file a substantive memorandum describing U.S. interests.
Altonaga heard arguments yesterday for and against dismissing the suit, and said she might not even wait for the government to weigh in on the case, according to representatives for both sides. She adjourned without offering a final decision on the suit.
Since last years controversy surrounding Dubai Ports World, the U.A.E. has hired a number of Washington representatives to build more ties in America as well as preempt challenges such as the lawsuit.
One of the countrys top plaintiff law firms, Motley Rice, along with private practice lawyer John Andres Thornton, filed the suit to seek compensation for thousands of trafficked children who raced camels in the Emirates. Arguing under the Alien Tort Statute, the firm took the case to the U.S. because the sheikhs own American assets.
A Motley Rice lawyer working on the suit, John Eubanks, said the U.S. governments filing did not surprise him. He added he expects that the government has not made up its mind on whether or not they are going to intervene.
Dr. Habib Al Mulla, one of the defendants representatives, said in a statement that the suit is baseless.
According to news reports, the U.A.E. passed a ban on child racers in 2005 and extended its agreement with UNICEF in April to rehabilitate and repatriate former jockeys for another two years.
We believe the U.S. government and courts will agree that that the U.A.E.-UNICEF program is providing benefits to more children, and is doing so faster and with greater certainty, than would any remedy mandated by U.S. courts, said Mulla. A Justice Department spokesman declined to elaborate further on the filing.
The ministers lobbyists in D.C. have been active, meeting with staffers on Capitol Hill and senior administration officials. DLA Piper is the top firm on the case, taking close to $2.5 million so far, according to Justice Department records. DLA Piper has built a presence in the Emirates, establishing an office in Dubai last year.
Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and John Merrigan, a fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clintons (D-N.Y.) presidential run, filed registrations with the Justice Department to work on the suit. In addition, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine), a firm partner, praised Dubai in a statement earlier this year as an important American ally.
As part of the effort, lobbyists at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart under a subcontract with DLA Piper contacted officials at the State Department about its annual human trafficking report. As in years past, the State Departments 2007 report noted the U.A.E.s progress in trying to resolve the child camel-racer issue. But Johnson Madigan focused more on U.A.E. trade and investment issues when it talked with administration and congressional officials, according to Justice Department records.
The U.A.E. ministers have also hired Sitrick and Company to provide public relations services, according to DoJ records. Mark Saylor is the lead contact on this case for Sitrick, although he left the company to create his own firm, Saylor Company.
U.A.E.s ministers have also personally joined the lobbying effort. In a February 2007 letter to President Bush, Sheikh Mohammed wrote the suit was a significant interference in the U.A.E.s relationship with the U.S., and that he would appreciate Bushs personal attention on the lawsuit.
In a December 2006 letter, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged the U.A.E.s concern about the suit. If the Justice Department does decide to participate, it would file its memo on or before Sept. 17, according to its filing.
Note that they hire lobbyists, but don’t deny the allegations.
Great people we’re allied with, huh?
All cultures are equal. All cultures are equal. All cultures are equal. Third time’s not the charm. Maybe we need to send a couple hundred million $’s to ease their burden. I know, that’s a drop in the bucket in U.A.E. terms, but it’s the thought that counts. Blackbird.
Do those assets have to be U.S. camels in the races or U.S. boys who were enslaved as jockeys?
If I buy a bottle of French wine, can I be sued in a French court?