It comes after the daughter of the billionaire ruler of Dubai accused her father of keeping her hostage after she was abducted from a yacht during an escape attempt in 2018.
Princess Latifa Al Maktoum claimed commandos drugged her as she fled by boat and flew her back to detention, according to footage shared with BBC Panorama. Her friends are urging the United Nations to step in after her messages from a secret phone stopped.
Mr Raab told Sky News: “You can only watch the footage…and see that there is very distressing pictures, a very difficult case.
“I think it is concerning. We always raise human rights issues with our partners, including the UAE.
“We are concerned by this and I noticed that we’ve seen the United Nations High Commissioner on human rights will be following up on what we’ve seen and we’ll be watching that very closely indeed.”
Asked if they wanted to see proof Princess Latifa was alive, he replied: “Given what we’ve just seen, people would just at a human level want to see that she’s alive and well, of course. I think that’s a natural instinct and we would certainly welcome that.”
He later told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve seen some of the footage and I think it’s deeply troubling. You can see a young woman and deep distress.”
He said the UK did not have a direct locus in the case and the right mechanism was to deal with it through the UN.
The Secretary of State was pressed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on whether they could freeze the Sheikh’s assets or slap him with a travel ban.
But Mr Raab said there was a “strict legal threshold” for such measures and they needed evidence of acts such as torture, forced labour or a killing. He added: “It’s not simply the case that we can willy-nilly just slap sanctions on individuals.”
When it was suggested that Princess Latifa’s detention would constitute torture, he replied: “Conceivably it could do if there’s the evidence and those facts are right. But I think even in the way you framed the question it’s quite speculative.”
In a series of secretly recorded videos, Princess Latifa claims she was threatened with being shot unless she co-operates with official statements issued by her father.
In her videos, which are being handed to the United Nations, she said: “This villa has been converted into a jail.
“All the windows are barred shut. There’s five policemen outside and two policewomen inside. I can’t even go out to get fresh air. So basically, I’m a hostage.”
The videos were recorded over several months on a phone she was secretly given about a year after her capture and return to Dubai, the BBC said. She recorded them in a bathroom as it had the only door she could lock.
The UN has said it will raise the detention of Princess Latifa with the authorities in the UAE. A spokesman said the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention could launch an investigation once Princess Latifa’s videos have been analysed.
Sheikh Mohammed has a vast horse-racing enterprise and has been pictured with Queen Elizabeth II. He is considered an influential ally of Britain in the Middle East.
He is one of the richest heads of state in the world, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE.
A UK court ruled last year that he abducted Princess Latifa and her sister Princess Shamsa.