Sheikhs sued over camel jockeys

2006-09-14 11:23

Miami - A lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in US district court alleging that the governor of Dubai and his son enslaved some 30 000 children over the past three decades for use as camel jockeys, the US attorneys announced in Miami.

The 56-page suit, which bases its case on international laws banning slavery and the use of child labour, names Dubai governor and United Arab Emirates vice president Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his son, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as well as others.

They are charged with "the alleged abduction and human trafficking of thousands of young boys" from places like Bangladesh, Sudan and southern Asia, according to a release by the South Carolina-based law firm Motley Rice LLC.

Boys stolen, trained

"Once abducted, the children were allegedly sold into slavery to serve as camel jockeys for the entertainment of the Arabian elite," the statement read.

According to the complaint "boys as young as two years old have been stolen from their families, trafficked across international borders, and kept in brutal camel-racing camps throughout the United Arab Emirates, forced to train camels and perform as jockeys."

The suit alleges that despite the enactment of legal weight and age limits, "child jockeys weighing less than 20kg have become the standard in races.

Sheikhs don't use own kids

Because of the extreme danger involved in camel racing, Arab sheikhs have not used their own children for training or riding, and instead have resorted to this alleged child enslavement."

The suit also claims some of the boys were sexually abused, injected with hormones to prevent them from growing, and starved to be kept light.

The practice "has resulted in a vast conspiracy among camel owners to buy boys in the slave trade, hold them in brutal camps, forcing them to care for and exercise the camels, and then race against each other."

Suit filed by parents

By filing the suit "we hope to punish the perpetrators of these vile crimes and compensate the victims for their pain and suffering," said Motley Rice attorney Ron Motley.

The suit was filed on behalf of six unidentified parents, and the attorneys are seeking class action status on behalf of more than 30 000 children going back to the 1970s who may have been victims.

The suit calls for a jury to determine the amount of payment to the victims.

The case was filed in Miami because the defendants have property in the state, including a horse ranch in central Florida.