“Technically one of the most gifted barristers that I have come across, he’s absolutely meticulous.” – Chambers UK, 2017
“Brilliant, writes beautifully, is hard-working and totally unflappable. He is really good with clients.” – Chambers UK, 2017
Selected as one of “The Hot 100 2017“ in The Lawyer, Nikolaus has a busy practice in public, civil and international law, across Chambers’ core areas of work. He acts regularly in high-profile litigation, both in human rights and commercial cases. He has particular expertise in complex public law cases and damages claims, cross-jurisdictional disputes, and matters involving issues of national security, armed conflict and international relations.
Nikolaus is a member of the Attorney General’s Public International Law C Panel of Counsel to the Crown and a former judicial assistant to Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury. Before coming to the bar, Nikolaus worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and the Sudan.
- Public Law & Human Rights
Nikolaus appears for and advises individuals, companies, public interest groups, and government in judicial review and civil claims.
He has been instructed in many high-profile public law and human rights cases, both led and as sole counsel:
- Mohammed v Ministry of Defence – Test litigation challenging the extent of the UK’s power to detain individuals captured by British forces in Afghanistan. Supreme Court:  UKSC 1 and  UKSC 2; Court of Appeal:  EWCA Civ 843,  2 WLR 247; High Court:  EWHC 1369 (QB)
- R (British American Tobacco & ors.) v Secretary of State for Health – Judicial review by several major tobacco companies, seeking the or the annulment of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. Supreme Court appeal pending. Court of Appeal:  EWCA Civ 1182; High Court:  EWHC 1169 (Admin) &  ETMR 38
- Wang Yam v Attorney General / R (Wang Yam) v Central Criminal Court – Challenge regarding the power of the UK to restrict individuals from bringing secret material before the European Court of Human Rights. Supreme Court:  UKSC 76;  AC 771
- Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence & Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Damages claim arising out of the UK’s role in the Claimant’s rendition to a US base in Afghanistan where he was detained for some eight years. Supreme Court:  UKSC 1 and  UKSC 3
- R (AI and XH) v Secretary of State for the Home – Judicial review claim challenging the Secretary of State’s decision purporting to withdraw the Claimants’ passports under the Royal Prerogative. Court of Appeal judgment pending  EWHC 1898 (Admin),  ACD 117
- Evangelou v McNicol and The Labour Party – Claim concerning the right of recent members of the Labour Party to vote in the party leadership election.  EWHC 2058 (QB)
- R (Hotak and AL) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Secretary of State for Defence and the Attorney General – Representing locally employed staff serving the UK Government in Afghanistan in a discrimination challenge alleging that the protection and benefits offered to them remain more limited than what was offered to comparably placed staff in Iraq. Supreme Court appeal pending. Court of Appeal:  EWCA Civ 438,  1 WLR 3791; High Court:  EWHC 1953 (Admin),  IRLR 827
- R (Campaign Against Arms Trade) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills – Acting for the Interveners (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Rights Watch (UK)) in a judicial review of the licensing of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
- Al Waheed v Ministry of Defence – Test case in the litigation brought by Iraqi civilians against the Ministry of Defence for damages arising out of their arrest, detention and ill-treatment during the occupation of Iraq and while the British army remained in Iraq until 2009. Supreme Court:  UKSC 2
- R (O) v Secretary of State for International Development – Judicial review of DFID’s failure properly to investigate the apparent use of UK aid money for human rights abuses in Ethiopia.  EWHC 2371 (QB)
- Kololo v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – Acting for a death row prisoner in Kenya in a DPA claim that succeeded in obtaining potentially exculpatory evidence held by the Metropolitan Police.  EWHC 600 (QB),  1 WLR 3702
- Zaw Lin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – Acting in a DPA claim for two death row prisoners in Thailand; on the facts the Court found that nothing in the data would be of real value to the Claimants’ criminal trial.  EWHC 2484 (QB)
- R (DPP) v Stratford Youth Court – Judicial review by the DPP of a Youth Court sentencing decision.  EWHC 2047 (QB)
- R (Kenyi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department – Judicial review of the Claimant’s lengthy immigration detention pending deportation to South Sudan following its independence from the Sudan.
- R (PK) v Harrow LBC – Represented a family in a successful ECHR Article 8 challenge to a local authority’s decision to provide accommodation for two young children but not their mother.  EWHC 584 (Admin)
- Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jennifer Jones v Attorney General and Ministry of Defence – Advising Parliamentarians in a proposed judicial review challenge regarding the lawfulness of the UK’s policy to kill British nationals in targeted drone strikes abroad.
- R (SMA) v Secretary of State for the Home Department – one of multiple judicial review challenges of age assessments of unaccompanied minors undertaken by the SSHD / local authorities.
- R (Serdar Mohammed) v Secretary of State for Defence – A successful challenge to the practice of transferring British-captured detainees to the Afghan security and intelligence services. ( EWHC 3282 (Admin);  EWHC 3454 (Admin),  1 WLR 1071 and  EWHC 3946 (Admin))
- R (L) v Youth Justice Board – A judicial review of the placement of a vulnerable 16-year-old remand prisoner.  EWHC 3083
- R (Rahman) v Serious Organised Crime Agency – Acting in a claim against the predecessor of the NCA, regarding its involvement in the compilation and implementation of a ‘kill list’ in the context of military operations outside the UK.
- R (RH) v HM Treasury – Challenging the lawfulness of the EU sanctions regime on Iraq in relation to the failure to provide for licenses for reasonable legal expenses.
- Muna Abdule v Secret Intelligence Service and ors. – An IPT claim concerning alleged collusion by the UK intelligence services in the torture and unlawful detention of a British national in Somalia.
- R (GC and C) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis – A decision of the Supreme Court that a blanket policy allowing the continued retention of DNA and fingerprint data by the police was unlawful.  UKSC 21,  1 WLR 1230
- R (W) v Croydon LBC – Acted for the parents of a young man lacking capacity in a successful judicial review of the local authority’s placement decision.
- Commercial, Regulatory & Competition
Nikolaus is instructed across a range of commercial, regulatory and competition cases, in which he advises and represents private and public clients. He has particular expertise in cross-jurisdictional claims and benefits from his technical public law knowledge and his extensive litigation experience in the appellate Courts.
Nikolaus also provides advice to companies regarding compliance with international human rights standards and operations in conflict-affected areas.
Recent and ongoing work includes:
- British Telecommunications Plc v Office of Communications (WMO) – “Pay TV litigation”: Acting for BT in an appeal against Ofcom’s decision to remove the Wholesale Must Offer (WMO) Obligation, which required Sky to provide its premium sports channels to competitors on a wholesale basis at a regulated price.  CAT 25 (substantive) and  CAT 1 (confidentiality ring)
- Cathay Pacific v European Commission – Acting for Cathay Pacific in a challenge to the European Commission’s “air cargo” cartel decisions.  4 CMLR 7
- R (British American Tobacco & ors.) v Secretary of State for Health – Judicial review by several major tobacco companies, seeking the or the annulment of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. Court of Appeal:  EWCA Civ 1182; High Court:  EWHC 1169 (Admin) &  ETMR 38
- Maxter Catheters SAS v Medicina Ltd. – Jurisdictional dispute regarding the proper application of Article 30 of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 (the Judgments Regulation) in the context of a claim concerning a medical devices distribution agreement.  EWHC 3076 (Comm),  1 WLR 349
- Advising a major business in an expert determination regarding FRAND obligations
- Palmer Works v Rossmann – Jurisdictional dispute regarding the European Order for Payment procedure under Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006 in the context of claim concerning the sale of cosmetic products. (confidential settlement)
- Advising on jurisdiction, applicable law and expert evidence on foreign law in relation to a number of complex, conflict-related multi-party damages claims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and South Sudan.
- Advised a UK consultancy business on jurisdiction and applicable law issues arising in the context of a framework agreement with a major US client.
- Advised on jurisdiction in the context of a tort claim arising out of the operations of a multinational mining company in Papua New Guinea.
- Yiallouros v Mondial Assistance – Represented the Claimant in a long-running insurance dispute
- Advising a telecommunications business on identifying and addressing human rights issues potentially affecting the expansion of its operations into two new countries.
- R (RH) v HM Treasury – Challenging the lawfulness of the EU sanctions regime on Iraq in relation to the failure to provide for licenses for reasonable legal expenses.
- Represented several high-profile individuals in sanctions regime delisting applications (Iran, Iraq, Libya and terrorism sanctions regimes).
- Advising a professional association on operating in Iran in compliance with the applicable sanctions regimes.
- International Law
Nikolaus is a member of the UK Attorney General’s Public International Law C Panel of Counsel.
He works on a wide range of international matters, both in an advisory / consultancy capacity and in litigation before domestic and international courts. He benefits from extensive previous field experience, including in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Libya, the Great Lakes Region and the Caucasus.
He is instructed in a range of cases before international and domestic courts, raising issues of international law:
- AW v United Kingdom – Acting for the Claimant in an ECtHR challenge to the compatibility of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 with Article 8 ECHR
- Yam v UK – An Article 6 ECHR challenge to the fairness of a murder trial mostly held in secret.
- Acting in a range of high-profile public and private law cases in domestic courts, dealing with issues such as the treatment of UK detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, involvement by the UK intelligence services in human rights abuses in Pakistan and Somalia, the use of UK international development aid, and piracy. (See sections on “Public Law and Human Rights” and on “Actions against the Police and Public Authorities” for further details).
- Death penalty cases in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore and Somalia.
Other recent and ongoing international work includes:
- Advising the African Union Mission in Somalia on the establishment of a Civilian Casualties Tracking, Analysis and Response Cell pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2036 (2012) and 2093 (2013) (instructed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict, the United Nations and the UK Government).
- Advising the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on its Protection of Civilians strategy.
- Assisting the international military mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) with developing a Defensive Fire Policy.
- Working with Libyan judges and prosecutors on developing transitional justice policies and implementation.
- Investigating incidents of alleged severe human rights violations in a number of countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.
- Trainings for military forces (US, Afghanistan, NATO), Governments (Afghanistan and Somalia), NGOs, journalists and human rights activists on human rights, international humanitarian law, civilian protection and responding to civilian harm.
- Researching and writing an in-depth report for CIVIC and UNHCR on the impact of the armed conflict in Somalia on the civilian population.
- Representing various NGOs on advocacy missions, including at the UN, NATO, national governments and NGO consortia.
- Actions Against the Police & Public Authorities
Nikolaus is frequently instructed in private law claims against the police, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and other public authorities.
See “Public Law & Human Rights” section for further details and examples of recent and ongoing cases. Other examples include:
Actions against the police:
- Stewart & Chergui v Metropolitan Police – 3 ½ week jury trial in the High Court regarding claims for multiple incidents of false imprisonment, assault, trespass and breaches of Article 8 ECHR.
- Various national security claims regarding, for instance, detention under Schedule 7 Terrorism Act 2000, house searches, and the seizure / retention of passports and property such a mobile telephones.
- Claims for assault, false imprisonment, misfeasance in public office, malicious prosecution other causes of action, including e.g. cases involving the unlawful use of dogs, tasers, batons, repeated unlawful arrests, and unlawful searches and seizures.
- Discrimination issues, such as the duty to make reasonable adjustments for the detention of individuals with mental health problems.
- Violations of the Human Rights Act 1998, such as a breach of the investigative duty under Article 3 ECHR following serious allegations of mistreatment in police custody.
- Unlawful retention and disclosure of personal data by the police (see Information Law section).
- Damages claims arising out of immigration detention and removals, including several high-value cases entailing, for instance:
- Detention for periods of over two years;
- Allegations of serious mistreatment;
- Severe re-traumatisation of torture victims.
Ministry of Defence:
- Afghanistan litigation – various claims concerning allegations of unlawful detention, mistreatment and/or the killing of relatives of individuals by UK forces in Afghanistan. (see e.g. Supreme Court:  UKSC 1 and  UKSC 2)
- Rahmatullah v MoD – Damages claim arising out of the UK’s role in the Claimant’s capture to Iraq and subsequent rendition to a US base in Afghanistan where he was detained for some eight years. Supreme Court:  UKSC 1 and  UKSC 3
- Bell v MoD – vicarious liability claim for severe personal injury caused by an assault on a serviceman on overseas deployment.
- Sarwar v MoD and FCO, representing a UK national in a claim for false imprisonment, assault and breaches of the Human Rights Act following her detention by UK authorities overseas.
Other public authorities:
- Several cases relating to actions by the UK intelligence and security services.
- Damages claims against the Ministry of Justice in relation to the treatment of prisoners and individuals on witness protection programmes.
- Claims against local authorities for misconduct of their employees and agents.
- Information Law
Nikolaus acts in a range of cases concerning the retention and disclosure of information by the police and other public authorities.
Recent examples include:
- Kololo v the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis – acting for a death row prisoner in Kenya in relation to his DPA claim against the Metropolitan Police.  EWHC 600(QB),  1 WLR 3702
- Zaw Lin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – acting for two death row prisoner in Thailand in relation to their DPA claim against the Metropolitan Police.  EWHC 2484 (QB)
- ZZZ v Ministry of Justice and Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – complex challenge regarding failures in the handling of personal data of an individual on a witness protection programme.
- Trushin v National Crime Agency – acting for the claimant in a claim in the High Court under the DPA in relation to the NCA’s processing of personal data as the national contact point for INTERPOL.
- Powell v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police – a successful damages claim against the police arising out of the unlawful publication of personal information.
- X v Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a request for information by the family of a UK national killed in a drone strike abroad.
- Shepphard v Foreign and Commonwealth Office – represented a family in a successful attempt to obtain information provided by a foreign Government and concerning the death of their son abroad.
- R (AW) v Secretary of State for Justice – a case concerning the disclosure of past criminal cautions and convictions.  EWCA Civ 25
- GC and C v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (assisting Stephen Cragg QC) – a challenge to the retention of DNA samples of unconvicted individuals by the police.  UKSC 21
- Additional Information
Before joining the Bar, Nikolaus worked for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and for Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. He specialized in the issue of civilian casualties, dealing with a range of incidents including the killing of civilians in airstrikes by international forces, targeted assassinations of non-combatants by insurgents and the shooting of unarmed protesters by Afghan Government forces.
Nikolaus also worked as Special Assistant to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan and has undertaken a range of consultancy and academic assignments in countries including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Russia.
After completing pupillage, Nikolaus was Judicial Assistant to Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury.
He holds a BA in law from Oxford University and an LLM from Harvard Law School and completed the BVC with the highest mark in his year. He was awarded the Harvard Henigson Human Rights Fellowship as well as numerous prizes and awards for his research on legal structures in Somalia and on conflict mapping in Central Africa and Central Asia. Nikolaus is a qualified mediator under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules.
- Lawfare in the Courts: Litigation as a Weapon of War in Media and Civil Society in 21st Century Conflict, IDEBATE Press (2014)
- Taylor on Criminal Appeals 2nd edition (contributing author), Oxford University Press, 2012.
- Civilian Harm in Somalia: Creating an Appropriate Response Mechanism (author), CIVIC, 2011.
- Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan (contributing author), UNAMA, 2009.
- Insurgent Abuses Against Afghan Civilians (editor), AIHRC, 2008.
- From Hope to Fear: An Afghan Perspective on Operations of Pro-Government Forces (editor), AIHRC, 2008.
- Armed Conflict and Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan (co-author), OHCHR, 2008.
- Investigation into the Shooting of Demonstrators in Sheberghan on 28 May 2007 (author), AIHRC, 2007.
- Investigation into the suicide bombing and shootings in Shinwar district on 4 March 2007 (author), AIHRC, 2007.
- We Are Now Hoping For Death: Grave Human Rights Abuses in Gambella, Ethiopia (co-author), HIHRC, 2006.
- Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Failed States: The Case of Somalia (author), Harvard Law School, 2006.
- What The Directories Say
Administrative & Public Law: “Very intelligent, extremely friendly and easy to work with.” “He is able to spot novel and difficult new points of law.” – Chambers UK, 2018
Civil Liberties and Human Rights: “He has a detailed technical knowledge of the law and an ability to advise in a clear and workable manner.” – Chambers UK, 2018
Administrative & Public Law: “Brilliant, writes beautifully, is hard-working and totally unflappable. He is really good with clients.” “A wonderfully creative litigator.” “Technically one of the most gifted barristers that I have come across, he’s absolutely meticulous.” – Chambers UK, 2017
Administrative & Public Law: “He has a technical background which means he can add a whole different dimension to cases. He has years of experience in his fields of practice and is hugely connected.” “He works incredibly hard and is very well informed on all the technical public law questions.” – Chambers UK, 2016
Administrative & Public Law: “He is incredibly competent and very accommodating. He seeks to push the boundaries of the law, yet always offers pragmatic and realistic advice.” – Chambers UK, 2015