Brick Court Chambers

Zahra Al-Rikabi

Zahra Al-Rikabi

YEAR OF CALL: 2012

"An excellent junior in the ascendancy."
Legal 500 2020
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Zahra has a broad practice encompassing commercial litigation, private and public international law, public law and human rights, and European law (in particular EU sanctions). She has appeared in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union.  Zahra acts for a wide range of clients, from multinational corporations, international organisations, and government and public bodies to private individuals. She is a native Arabic speaker which makes her well placed to deal with any domestic litigation or international arbitration where her language skills can be used.

Zahra has a broad practice encompassing commercial litigation, private and public international law, public law and human rights, and European law (in particular EU sanctions). She has appeared in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union.  Zahra acts for a wide range of clients, from multinational corporations, international organisations, and government and public bodies to private individuals. She is a native Arabic speaker which makes her well placed to deal with any domestic litigation or international arbitration where her language skills can be used.

Commercial instructions include:

  • Defending one of the “Big Four” accounting firms against a $600 million auditor’s negligence claim;
  • L R Avionics Technologies Ltd v The Federal Republic of Nigeria, a jurisdiction hearing in the Commercial Court considering the application of state immunity when consular services are outsourced to a commercial entity;
  • Singapore Tankers PTE ltd v Tital Oil PTE ltd, an appeal under s.69 of the Arbitration Act 1996.

Public law instructions include:

  • Utilita Energy Limited v Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, a challenge to the Government’s deadline for the installation of first generation smart energy meters;
  • Salman Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department, an appeal in the Court of Appeal challenging the compatibility with freedom of speech of the Government’s Prevent Duty Guidance; and
  • Catt and T v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis, an appeal to the Supreme Court in relation to the compatibility with the right to privacy of data retention by the Metropolitan police.

EU and competition law instructions include:

  • Central Bank of Iran v Council, an appeal by the Central Bank of Iran before the ECJ.
  • Tomana v Council, a challenge by 121 individuals and entities challenging their inclusion in the European Union’s sanctions against Zimbabwe.
  • Intercontinental Exchange, Inc v Competition and Markets Authority, a challenge to the CMA’s unwinding of the merger between ICE, the largest European utilities trading exchange and Trayport, the leading utilities trading software platform (acting for the intervener, Nasdaq Stockholm AB). 

Before coming to the Bar, Zahra worked with the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq during the negotiations of the US-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement, advising on issues such as state jurisdiction and state immunity. She also interned with the Steering Committee of the UN International Compact with Iraq, where she drafted advice on Iraq's international human rights obligations and issues of transitional justice.

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  • Commercial M

    Zahra has experience in a range of commercial matters, including banking, insurance, civil fraud, shipping, professional negligence and general contractual disputes. Current instructions include: 

    • Municipio de Mariana and ors v BHP Group (led by Charles Hollander QC), a claim on behalf of over 200,000 claimants arising from the collapse in 2015 of the Fundão Dam, which has been described as the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history.
    • BTI v PwC [2019] EWHC 3034 (Ch), (led by Simon Salzedo QC) a strike out application raising issues of abuse of process and scope of duty in the context of a $600 million auditor’s negligence claim (currently on appeal to the Court of Appeal)
    • Fortunate Drift v Canterbury Securities (led by Tim Lord QC) a $20 million claim in the Cayman Islands.

    Zahra has experience of challenges to arbitration awards under ss. 67, 68 and 69 of the Arbitration Act 1996 as well as enforcement of arbitration awards under the New York Convention. She appeared unled in L R Avionics Technologies Ltd v The Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor [2016] EWHC 1761 (Comm), an enforcement action raising issues of state and consular immunity.

    Zahra is particularly interested in multi-jurisdictional disputes raising questions of private and public international law. She has significant experience advising on state immunity, both in her work with the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq and in practice.

  • Public international law M

    Zahra has a strong public international law practice, which includes both advisory work, in particular in relation to the immunity of states, international organisations and diplomats; as well as domestic litigation raising issues of public international law. Notable cases include:

    • Canary Wharf v European Medicines Agency [2019] EWHC 335 (Ch) (led by Lord Anderson of Ipswich KBE QC), selected as one of the top case in The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2019, this case determined whether Brexit would frustrate the EMA’s lease in Canary Wharf, raising issues concerning the immunity of international organisations as a matter of customary international law, EU law and domestic law
    • Belhaj & Anor v Jack Straw & Ors [2017] UKSC 3 (led by Martin Chamberlain QC), an appeal before the Supreme Court addressing the application of state immunity and the foreign act of state doctrine in claims of complicity of UK agents in torture.
    • L R Avionics Technologies Ltd v The Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor [2016] EWHC 1761 (Comm), an enforcement action raising issues of state and consular immunity, in which Zahra appeared unled. This case is now authority for the proposition that s.9 of the State Immunity Act 1978 encompasses not only an arbitration award but also a judgment of a foreign court upholding the arbitration award and awarding interest.

    Zahra also has a growing practice in investment treaty disputes. She is currently instructed in Al-Jazeera v Egypt ICSID Case No. ARB/16/1 (led by Toby Landau QC), as well as a substantial claim brought by an investor against a South Asian state pursuant to a bilateral investment treaty.

    Before coming to the Bar, Zahra worked with the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq during the negotiations of the US-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement, advising on issues of state jurisdiction and state immunity.

  • Public Law M

    Zahra is ranked as a leading junior in administrative and public law (Legal 500, 2020) where she is described as “an excellent junior in the ascendancy”. She has extensive experience of public law, including both advisory and judicial review in a broad range of areas including community care, housing, transport and energy, as well as proceedings under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Zahra has been instructed in a wide range of regulatory disputes, including industry and professional bodies, financial services and anti-money laundering, and pharmaceutical regulation.

    Zahra frequently advises in relation to civil liberties and human rights, and has been involved in a number of high profile cases including Salman Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWCA Civ 256 (led by Paul Bowen QC), a challenge to the Prevent duty guidance raising issues concerning freedom of speech and the right to privacy; and Catt and T v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis and Another [2015] UKSC 9 (led by Paul Bowen QC), an appeal before the Supreme Court concerning the legality under Article 8 ECHR of data retention by the police.

    Zahra has a keen interest in human rights and law reform: she co-authored the Bingham Centre's Report on Streamlining Judicial Review in a Manner Consistent with the Rule of Law; she has worked with and volunteered for a number of NGOs, including the Public Law Project, Liberty and Amnesty International; and she is a Council Member of JUSTICE.

    Zahra’s experience in practice builds on her experience with the public law team at the Law Commission for England & Wales, and her time working as a judicial assistant to Lord Justice Maurice Kay, the then Vice President of the Court of Appeal.

  • EU/Competition M

    Zahra has extensive experience of advising on questions of EU law in the context of domestic litigation. Recent instructions include:

    • Canary Wharf v European Medicines Agency [2019] EWHC 335 (Ch) (led by Lord Anderson of Ipswich KBE QC), selected as the top case in The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2019, this case determined whether Brexit would frustrate the EMA’s lease in Canary Wharf, raising various issues about the EMA’s capacity as a matter of EU law.
    • R (on the application of Tempus Energy Ltd) v Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (led by Victoria Wakefield QC), a challenge to the UK Capacity Market in which the UK Government was said to be in breach of EU state aid law.

    Zahra also has significant experience in relation to EU economic sanctions, from challenges against designation to advising on questions of compliance with sanctions both generally and in relation to particular transactions. Notable cases include:

    • Case T-720/14 Arkady Rotenberg v Council (led by Maya Lester QC), the first challenge to the EU’s sanctions against Russia to go to judgment.
    • Case C-266/15 P Central Bank of Iran v Council (led by Maya Lester QC), an appeal before the ECJ brought by the Central Bank of Iran challenging its designation by the EU Council.
    • Case C-330/15 P Tomana and others v Council and Commission (led by Maya Lester QC), an appeal before the ECJ brought by over 100 individuals and entities designated by the EU Council (led by Maya Lester QC)

    Zahra further developed her experience in relation to compliance with EU sanctions through a secondment at Peters & Peters, where she played a key role in creating a global sanctions compliance policy for a large multinational corporation.

  • Publications M

    Z Al-Rikabi, “Kadi II: the right to effective judicial review triumphs yet again” European Human Rights Law Review E.H.R.L.R. (2013) No.6 Pages 631-636

    M Fordham, M Chamberlain, I Steele and Z Al-Rikabi, “Streamlining Judicial Review in a Manner Consistent with the Rule of Law” Judicial Review (Hart, Vol 19, no. 2)

  • Qualifications M

    2012-13: Pupillage, Brick Court Chambers

    2012: Judicial Assistant to Maurice Kay LJ, UK Court of Appeal

    2010-12: Bar Professional Training Course, College of Law (Very Competent)

    2010 - 11: Research Assistant, Law Commission for England and Wales

    2008: Assistant, Office of the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq

    2007 -10: LLM in Public International Law, London School of Economics (Merit)

    2003 - 07: BA in Jurisprudence, New College, Oxford (First)

    Scholarships:

    2013: Phoenicia Scholarship, Bar European Group

    2010: Astbury Scholarship (Major), Middle Temple

    2004: Slaughter and May Prize for the best performance in Introduction to Law for Law Moderations

    2004: New College Scholarship and the Burden-Griffiths Book Prize for performance in Law Moderations

  • Directory quotes M

    "An excellent junior in the ascendancy." (Legal 500 2020)

  • Languages M

    Arabic