By Kevin Bogardus
April 04, 2007
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), facing a class-action lawsuit over
alleged enslavement of boys as jockeys in camel races, has hired several
top Washington lobbyists and PR firms to present their case to Congress
and the public.
The lawsuit, which the UAE seeks to dismiss, was filed in September and
alleges that senior ministers from Dubai conspired to force thousands of
underage boys to race camels. Having been hit by a public-relations
disaster in Washington last year, the emirates are working hard to avoid
another similar blow.
“Dubai learned from the Dubai Ports World controversy how easy it was to
distort its reputation in the U.S. media,” said Mark Saylor, one of the
Filed in federal court in Miami by the firm Motley Rice LLC and private
practice lawyer John Andres Thornton, the suit accuses Sheikh Mohammed
bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE’s prime minister and vice president, and his
brother, Hamdan, the minister of finance and industry, of conspiring to
enslave children “as camel jockeys for the entertainment of the Arabian
elite,” according to the firm’s press release.
Motley Rice is described by Fortune magazine as “the most feared
asbestos/tobacco/mass-torts plaintiffs law firm in the country.” It won
roughly $250 billion from a settlement with the tobacco industry in the
John Eubanks, a Motley Rice attorney said, “This case is about personal
liability, not about the act or omissions of the United Arab Emirates
“The lawsuit … is defective for numerous reasons and the underlying
issues are already being ... addressed by UNICEF” and several other
countries, said Saylor.
Motley Rice is arguing against dismissing the case. It says that the
Maktoum brothers have broken “the law of nations” under the Alien Tort
Statute by enslaving the boy riders, according to a March 2007 filing.
UNICEF praised the UAE. Its spokesman, Geoffrey Keele, said, “UAE has
been very proactive in addressing this situation and has taken a number
of steps to not only stop the use of children as camel jockeys, but to
assist former jockeys to return home and reintegrate into their
It has also banned underage children from racing camels and has begun
replacing them with robotic jockeys, Keele said.
The Maktoums hired Sitrick and Company to provide “public relations
advice and services,” according to Department of Justice (DoJ) records.
Saylor, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter and
editor, is still working with Sitrick, although he left the company to
create his own firm.
Like Sitrick, DLA Piper, a major multinational law firm, has been
working on the case since September but has subcontracted out to smaller
outfits since early 2007.
The firm has designated most of its lobbying work to Johnson, Madigan,
Peck, Boland & Stewart Inc. to protect against any congressional action.
The sheikh’s lobbyists are seeking executive branch intervention in the
case in the form of a “statement of interest” supporting dismissal,
according to well-placed sources.
The year-long contract with Johnson Madigan could cost the sheikhs’ more
than $800,000. Jeffery Peck, Sen. Joseph Biden’s (D-Del.) former
counsel, and Peter Madigan, once a State Department official under the
first President Bush, signed the subcontract.
DLA Piper has another subcontract, with Rock Creek Strategic Marketing,
that has pledged to “not only monitor, but when appropriate, also seek
to influence online media outlets, blogs and search engine results,”
according to DoJ records.
Rock Creek will identify “key blog audiences with high authority” and
pitch “key bloggers for original posts.”
“It is simply a recognition of how inaccurate views can be disseminated
quickly over the Internet,” said Saylor.
Lawyers for both sides continue to file motions. Attorneys for the UAE
sheikhs are expected to file again this month for the suit’s dismissal.
The Source available here at: (Business
truly shocking that such unimaginable crimes are taking
place against children in this day and age," stated
attorney Ron Motley of Motley Rice. "Two year-old boys
have been stolen from their families, shipped to foreign
lands and forced to live in dangerous and oppressive
environments - robbed of their childhood and their
future. By bringing this lawsuit we hope to punish the
perpetrators of these vile crimes and compensate the
victims for their pain and suffering."
View Full Text Here
'Camel Kids' The Camel Jockeys of United Arab
Pakistani boy who worked five years as a camel jockey,
starting at age 4, remembers the race as noisy and
dangerous, where more than 50 camels with screaming
children strapped onto their backs would run. He
personally saw about 20 children die, and more than a
dozen injured every week. He recalls: "There was this
one kid whose strap broke at the beginning of the race.
His head was crushed between the legs of the running
camel. Once the race has started it cannot stop.. The