Before joining Doughty Street Chambers, Nikolaus worked for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). He specialized in the issue of civilian casualties, dealing with a range of incidents including international forces opening fire on civilian bystanders following a suicide attack, the targeted killing of non-combatants by insurgents and the shooting of unarmed protesters by Afghan Government forces.
Nikolaus also previously worked as Special Assistant to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan and on various consultancy and academic assignments in countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Russia (Chechnya).
Nikolaus holds a BA in law from Oxford University and an LLM from Harvard Law School. He was awarded the Inner Temple’s prize for outstanding achievement on the BVC, the Harvard Henigson Human Rights Fellowship, and 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.
Nikolaus has a broad domestic and international practice, covering public, civil and criminal law cases. He focuses on human rights issues and has particular expertise in matters relating to armed conflict and civilian protection as well as claims against the police and public authorities.
Before coming to the bar, Nikolaus worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and the Sudan. He holds law degrees from Oxford University and Harvard Law School and is a former judicial assistant to Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, the Master of the Rolls.
Nikolaus represents defendants in the Crown Court, Youth Court and Magistrates Court. He has conducted trials for offences such as armed robbery, sexual offences, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and fraud.
He has also assisted on a range of serious and high profile cases including conspiracy to murder (R v Stabler, Reading CC), causing multiple deaths by dangerous driving (R v Afzal,
Wood Green CC), a CCRC referral (R v Heibner, Court of Appeal), large-scale VAT fraud (R v McFarnon and Ors, Kingston CC), and false accounting in relation to Parliamentary expenses (R v Jim Devine, Southwark CC).
Nikolaus has a particular interest in money laundering and confiscation proceedings. He has worked on a range of cases involving issues such as the determination of hidden assets (e.g. R v Iktilat & Ors,
Woolwich CC) and the enforcement of confiscation orders.
He is a contributing author to the 2nd edition of Taylor on Criminal Appeals and advises on appeals against both conviction and sentence.
Nikolaus acts in a wide range of international matters, both in an advisory or consultancy capacity and in cases before domestic and international courts. He draws on his specialist legal knowledge as well as his extensive field experience in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, the Great Lakes Region and the Caucasus.
Recent and ongoing projects include:
Nikolaus advises on compliance with international and bilateral sanctions regimes and accepts instructions from individuals affected by them. Further, he provides advice to corporate entities regarding compliance with international human rights standards and operations in conflict-affected areas.
Nikolaus represents clients in claims against the police or the military for assault, false imprisonment and other torts as well as violations of the Human Rights Act 1998. He is also instructed in tort-claims against local authorities and Government departments.
Recent cases include the unlawful removal and destruction of a vehicle by a local authority; assaults by the police involving the use of dogs, tasers and batons; the action brought by members of the rock band The Thirst against Staffordshire police; and costs disputes.
Nikolaus is currently acting in a number of public law challenges regarding the lawfulness of certain UK Government policies in Afghanistan and East Africa, including the ongoing handover of detainees in UK custody to the Afghan authorities (Serdar Mohammed v SSD & Maya Evans (No. 3) v SSD).
Other recent public law cases include applications for judicial review against the Crown Prosecution Service (unlawful discontinuance of a prosecution), the Independent Police Complaints Commission (irrational decision on appeal) and local authorities (unfair ‘best interests’ assessment; provision of community care services). He was also involved in legal action in the course of the charity Reprieve’s ‘Death Penalty: Stop Lethal Injection’ project (R (Edmund Zagorski) v SSBIS and Archimedes Pharma).
Nikolaus worked on the Supreme Court case GC and C v Metropolitan Police Commissioner
 UKSC 21 regarding data retention by the police. He is currently involved in a case challenging the HRA-compatibility of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (JB v SSHD & AW v SSHD).
Nikolaus represents families at inquests. He has worked on inquests such as those dealing with the 7/7 bombings in London and the killing of another patient by a convicted cannibalistic murderer at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital.
Nikolaus represents prisoners in parole board hearings and adjudications. He advises in relation to judicial review proceedings against the parole board and prison service.
Nikolaus accepts instructions in courts martial hearings. His detailed understanding of military structures and the operating environment on deployment is a particular advantage in such cases.
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