Alison has an extensive practice in public international law, arbitration, human rights and criminal law, in both domestic and international courts and tribunals. She is described in the legal directories as “one of the smartest, most charming advocates at the Bar”, with “killer litigation instincts”, and as “an intellectual giant” who “works incredibly hard [and] is very cool under pressure”. Clients consider her to be “a superstar”; a “brilliant oral advocate who performs exceptionally well before the most prestigious international courts and arbitral tribunals”, and “the consummate professional”. As well as her legal skills, she is “adored by clients”, “very responsive”, and “a true team player”.
Early in her career, Alison was named as one of the ‘Future Stars of the Bar’ by The Times (2008); on appointment as Queen’s Counsel in 2017 she was selected as a ‘star silk’ by The Lawyer. In 1999 she was elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Alison is recommended in the leading UK legal directories in six areas: (1) public international law; (2) international arbitration; (3) international human rights law; (4) civil liberties and human rights; (5) administrative and public law; and (6) business and regulatory crime. She is also listed in Chambers Global as a leading silk in the field of public international law, is named in Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration as a leader in the field of international arbitration, and in 2022 was nominated as Public International Law Silk of the Year at the Legal 500 Bar Awards.
- Current and recent work
Advising and representing:
- Armenia in its claims against Azerbaijan before the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, arising out of events relating to Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Mauritius in proceedings in the International Court of Justice and International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea relating to the Chagos Archipelago.
- Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in seeking her release from detention in Iran.
- A group of Portuguese children and young people in ground-breaking climate change litigation in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, against Portugal and 32 Member States of the Council of Europe.
- The former majority shareholders of Yukos in the enforcement of their $50 billion arbitral award against the Russian Federation.
- Defendants in the SKAT litigation brought by Denmark arising out of alleged ‘cum-ex’ trading (Commercial Court and Court of Appeal) (named by The Lawyer as one of its Top 20 Cases of 2021, and Top 20 Appeals of 2022).
- The Republic of Cuba and the Banco Nacional de Cuba in Commercial Court proceedings involving the attempted enforcement of Cuban sovereign debt.
- The World Uyghur Congress, Uyghur Human Rights Project and Global Legal Action Network in relation to issues of international criminal liability and State responsibility for crimes against humanity and genocide in respect of the Uyghur population of China.
- The Government of Ukraine, through a Presidential Working Group established in May 2022, on the establishment of an International Claims Commission to provide reparations for loss and damage caused by the war in Ukraine.
- Public international law
Alison is recognised as “a brilliant oral advocate who performs exceptionally well before the most prestigious international courts and tribunals.” The directories describe her as “one of the smartest, most charming advocates at the Bar” in the field of public international law, noting that she is “excellent at interventions before the ICJ”, “the consummate professional”, and “a superstar”.
She is highly experienced at providing advice and advocacy at all stages, from strategic advice on an emerging dispute, to working as a team with State clients, experts, and lawyers across jurisdictions to frame the claim and manage the production of written pleadings and exhibits, to acting as advocate at the eventual hearing. Particular areas of experience include:
- The international law aspects of climate change.
- The law of the sea, including maritime delimitation.
- State and diplomatic immunity.
- International human rights law, including the key UN and regional human rights treaties and treaty bodies.
- International criminal law, including the crime of aggression.
- The law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, and the law of post-conflict reparations.
- The law relating to the occupation of territory, decolonisation, and the right to self-determination.
Over the last two decades she has advised and represented States and other entities in a number of the most significant international disputes, before international courts and tribunals including the ICJ, ITLOS and other tribunals constituted under UNCLOS, the European Court of Human Rights, and the International Criminal Court.
As well as cases which result in litigation, Alison regularly advises on the legal, diplomatic and strategic aspects of international law issues which are not in the public domain. She is experienced at engaging with governments on sensitive diplomatic and policy issues, both domestically and in the UN and other political and legal fora.
Work which is in the public domain includes:
- Armenia v Azerbaijan; Azerbaijan v Armenia: Representing Armenia in claims currently pending before the International Court of Justice, under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, arising out of events relating to Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Armenia v Azerbaijan; Azerbaijan v Armenia: Representing Armenia in claims currently pending before the Grand Chamber of the European Convention on Human Rights, arising out of events relating to Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Duarte Agostinho v Portugal: Representing a group of Portuguese children and young people in ground-breaking climate change litigation in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, against Portugal and 32 Member States of the Council of Europe.
- Advising the World Uyghur Congress, Uyghur Human Rights Project and Global Legal Action Network in relation to issues of international criminal liability and State responsibility for crimes against humanity and genocide in respect of the Uyghur population of China.
- The Prosecutor v Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi: International Criminal Court, Appeals Chamber: Represented Lawyers for Justice in Libya and REDRESS as amicus curiae on the question of the status of domestic amnesties in international criminal law.
- Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 (Request for Advisory Opinion): represented Mauritius in relation to the UN General Assembly’s request to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on decolonisation.
- Mauritius v Maldives: represented Mauritius in a maritime boundary delimitation claim in front of a Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
- Ghana v Côte d’Ivoire: acted for Ghana in a maritime boundary delimitation claim in front of a Special Chamber of the Sea. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
- Mauritius v United Kingdom: UNCLOS Annex VII Tribunal: acted for Mauritius in an arbitration arising out of UK’s declaration of a “marine protected area” around the Chagos Archipelago.
- The Prosecutor v Charles Taylor: Special Court for Sierra Leone, Appeals Chamber: Acted as amicus curiae on the question of whether Charles Taylor enjoyed immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while he was Head of State.
- Ireland v United Kingdom, OSPAR Arbitral Tribunal: acted for Ireland in this inter-state arbitration relating to the scope and nature of the right of access to environmental information.
- Ireland v United Kingdom (The MOX Plant Case), ITLOS: acted for Ireland in this application for provisional measures relating to the commissioning of the Sellafield MOX facility.
- International arbitration
Alison is recommended in this field for her “Extraordinarily impressive advocacy”; clients say that “her rapport-building capabilities with witnesses and the tribunal alike are second to none. She is an absolute delight to work with, a true team player, and has an incredible brain.”
She has two decades of experience in international arbitration, beginning in the early 2000s, when she was part of the legal team representing Argentina in a number of legally significant investment arbitrations and annulment applications, including Vivendi II, Siemens, CMS and Azurix. Since then she has acted in numerous significant and high-value cases for a wide range of States, companies and individuals. She is experienced at acting in teams with international law firms, firms local to the State of the dispute, and in-house corporate and Government advisers. As an experienced courtroom advocate, she is regularly instructed to deal with the cross-examination of factual and expert witnesses, as well as the legal and strategic aspects of the case.
Because of Alison’s practice in public international law, she is often brought into arbitrations which raise questions of international law, for example concerning state succession, disputed territory or human rights issues. She has also acted in some of the most significant inter-State arbitrations of recent years (see above). Alison has a particular interest in the application of international law in the domestic courts, and has been instructed in a number of cases relating to the enforcement of arbitral awards against State assets, including questions of State immunity. She also regularly advises investors and States on legal issues relating to the making and structuring of investments, and the strategic handling of emerging disputes.
Current and recent work includes:
- Representing former Yukos shareholders in the English Commercial Court in relation to the enforcement in England of a $50bn arbitral award (under the PCA Rules) against the Russian Federation (Hulley Enterprises Ltd, Yukos Universal Ltd and Veteran Petroleum Ltd v Russian Federation). Alison also represented Yukos in Yukos v Russia, in which the European Court of Human Rights awarded €1.5bn in damages to Yukos (the largest ever Strasbourg damages award) for violation of its rights during the tax enforcement process which led to its bankruptcy.
- Representing a large Malaysian telecommunications company in its BIT claim against Nepal arising out of the disputed imposition of tax on an offshore indirect share transfer (Axiata v Nepal).
- Representing Kazakhstan in a substantial claim, under a BIT and the Kazakh Foreign Investment Law, arising out of the gold mining sector, along with subsequent cross-annulment applications (Alhambra v Kazkhstan).
- Representing Mauritius in a claim by a British investor in a BIT claim arising out of proposed development in a UNESCO World Heritage site (Gosling v Mauritius).
- Representing Jordan in a claim by a Kuwaiti telecommunications company in relation to the disputed imposition of tax on the acquisition of a Jordanian telecommunications company (Alghanim v Jordan).
- Representing Bangladesh, and its State-owned oil and gas companies, in a contractual ICSID claim arising out of a joint venture project to revive certain marginal and abandoned gas fields (Niko Resources v Bangladesh, Bapex and Petrobangla).
- Human rights & civil liberties
Alison’s domestic public law and human rights practice focuses on two areas: cases involving issues of public international law, and cases arising out of the criminal justice system and criminal investigations (in which she is the co-author of a leading text in the field). In relation to this area of work, the directories state that “Her knowledge of the area is vast and her experience is blatantly obvious. She has an excellent advocacy manner which is compelling and effective and perfectly judged, and she is brilliant with the client.”
She is regularly instructed by States, individuals and NGOs in significant human rights cases, and has acted in numerous cases before the European Court of Human Rights, including the Grand Chamber, as well as applications to other regional human rights courts and complaints to UN human rights and treaty-monitoring bodies.
She has also appeared in a number of inquests into deaths in custody and at the hands of the state, including the inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed (represented Mohamed Al Fayed) and Ian Tomlinson (represented the Tomlinson family).
Recent and notable cases include:
- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: advised and represented Richard Ratcliffe, including engagement in multiple domestic and international legal and diplomatic fora, in seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from detention in Iran.
- Armenia v Azerbaijan; Azerbaijan v Armenia: Representing Armenia in inter-State cases against Azerbaijan relating to alleged serious human rights violations arising out of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights).
- Representing a group of Portuguese children and young people in their claim against 33 Member States of the Council of Europe, alleging that their failure to tackle climate change violates the applicants’ Convention rights (Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights).
- Represented Liberty in the judicial review claim brought by David Miranda about his detention under anti-terrorism powers while carrying journalistic material relating to Edward.
- Represented a number of public figures, including John Prescott, Chris Bryant and Brian Paddick, in their judicial review of the failure of the Metropolitan Police Service to investigate tabloid phone hacking.
- Catt v Metropolitan Police: Represented 90-year old peace protester in his Supreme Court case about the retention of his personal data on a ‘domestic extremism’
- Austin v United Kingdom: Strasbourg challenge to the lawfulness of police “kettling”.
- Adams v Secretary of State for Justice: Supreme Court decision on the meaning of “miscarriage of justice”: represented JUSTICE.
- Roberts v Parole Board: House of Lords decision on the use of special advocates before the Parole Board.
- International and financial crime
Alison is an experienced strategic adviser and advocate in the field of international and financial crime, singled out as “one of the very few barristers who works at the confluence between criminal, public and commercial law.” Clients say that she is “incredibly bright and comes up with innovative solutions at every turn.”
Much of her work in this field arises out of cross-jurisdictional investigations or prosecutions. Her expertise is often sought where a case raises parallel criminal and civil issues, including cases involving extradition or mutual assistance requests from foreign states arising out of litigation in the Commercial Court, and damages claims arising out of failed investigations or prosecutions (for example the damages claim brought by Robert Tchenguiz against the SFO). She has a particular interest in cross-border anti-corruption issues: current work includes representing Nigeria in proceedings in the English courts seeking the return of assets frozen in the UK on the application of the US, as the alleged proceeds of crime by the Abacha regime.
Her advice is often sought in cases raising difficult or novel issues of law or procedure, such as in the ‘phone hacking’ prosecutions relating to the News of the World (R v Coulson), and in situations where professional advisers require advice on the scope of their own obligations when their clients come under investigation.
She provides legal and strategic advice on in relation to investigations in the UK and abroad: examples of investigations abroad include France, Italy, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and the UAE. She has advised a number of prominent business and political figures who have been the subject of Interpol Red Notices, including a number of successful applications to have the notices removed, as well as advising on the legal and practical consequences of designation as a PEP. She has also acted in a number of Strasbourg claims arising out of flawed prosecutions in the UK and in other jurisdictions.
Alison’s international law practice complements her criminal work, and includes issues of:
- State and diplomatic immunity in relation to alleged criminal and civil wrongdoing by public officials and diplomats, both in the UK and abroad;
- Genocide and crimes against humanity (including the treatment of the Uyghur community in China);
- War crimes and aggression (including R v Jones (Margaret), in which the English courts first considered the status of the crime of aggression in English law);
- Extraterritorial jurisdiction (including R v Zardad, the first UK prosecution for extraterritorial torture).
She has provided legal and strategic advice to clients facing investigation and prosecution by the International Criminal Court, as well as appearing before that Court as an amicus curiae in the case against Saif Gaddafi. She also acted as amicus in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, on the question of whether Charles Taylor enjoyed immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while he was Head of State.
She has also acted in numerous Caribbean death row appeals to the Privy Council, including on the issue of the constitutionality of imposing the death sentence on offenders with severe learning disabilities, as well as challenges to the mandatory death penalty in Sierra Leone, and death penalty cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
- What Others Say
Chambers & Partners 2024, Public International Law:
“She shows intellectual confidence.” “One of the most intelligent people I have ever met.”
Chambers & Partners 2024, International Human Rights Law:
“Alison led an outstanding team and was very accessible, responsive, strategic and a pleasure to work with.” “A really stellar advocate.”
Legal 500 2023, Administrative & Public Law:
“An experienced advocate with expertise across international law and human rights.”
Legal 500 2023, Business & Regulatory Crime:
“A brilliant Silk – tremendously able with huge international skills and a delight to work with.”
Legal 500 2023, International Arbitration: General:
“Extremely bright, and very easy to work with – we brought her in for her arbitration expertise, and she did not disappoint. Willing to pull her sleeves up and deal with the detail.”
Legal 500 2023, Public International Law:
“Exceptionally hard-working, diligent and collegial. A meticulous and very effective cross-examiner. Calm and convincing under pressure. A true team player and overall a delight to work with.”
Chambers & Partners 2023, Public International Law:
“She is fiercely intelligent and extremely quick. She fights very hard for her clients and her rapport-building ability with the tribunal is second to none.” “She brings to bear the skill of being a real court advocate in a way few PIL practitioners can.” “She has a fearsome intellect and her writing is so concise and crisp, it really gets to the point. Her oral advocacy is astonishing.”
Chambers & Partners 2023, Administrative & Public Law:
“She is really fantastic; incredibly strategic, great with clients and easy to work with. She knows the law inside out.”
Chambers & Partners 2023, Civil Liberties & Human Rights:
“She is incredibly strategic and great with clients; she knows the law inside out.”
Chambers & Partners 2022, Civil Liberties & Human Rights:
“She has great strategic vision, is excellent with clients and is very responsive.” “Alison is excellent in court and she really knows what she is talking about.”
Chambers & Partners 2022, Administrative & Public Law:
“She is an extremely good advocate who knows a lot, if not everything, in several fields of law.” “She has great strategic vision, is excellent with the client and very responsive.”
Chambers & Partners 2022, Public International Law:
“She is razor sharp, well prepared and all over the detail.” “She produces work of a high calibre. Her commitment to her cases is admirable, and she makes herself available to discuss issues whenever needed.”
Chambers & Partners 2022, International Human Rights Law:
“She has great strategic vision, is excellent with clients and is very responsive.” “Alison is excellent in court and she really knows what she is talking about.”
Legal 500 2022, Business & Regulatory Crime:
“An excellent lawyer: pragmatic and a practical problem solver, she takes full ownership of cases and is one of the nicest people you will meet”
Legal 500 2022, Civil Liberties & Human Rights:
“An experienced advocate with expertise across international law and human rights”
Legal 500 2022, International Arbitration: General:
“Very diligent and collegiate. Equally strong advising on matters of strategy as well as substance. Calm and convincing as an oral advocate”
Legal 500 2022, Public International Law:
“Alison is a shining star, and one of the smartest, most charming advocates at the Bar”
Chambers & Partners 2021, Civil Liberties & Human Rights:
“A smart and impressive barrister.”
Chambers & Partners 2021, Public International Law:
“Alison is a truly wonderful advocate and is excellent at interventions before the ICJ. She is the consummate professional and answers questions excellently.” “She is a superstar. She’s phenomenally bright and is the best-prepared advocate. Her rapport-building ability is fantastic.”
Legal 500 2021, Business & Regulatory:
“An outstandingly bright silk. Methodical, clear and precise. She has great client care skills and the client is very happy to follow her sage advice.”
Legal 500 2021, Civil Liberties & Human Rights:
“Experienced advocate with expertise across international law and human rights.”
Legal 500 2021, International Arbitration: Counsel:
“A tremendous addition to Essex Court – delightful to work with, exceptionally clever with great intuition for international work and relationships.”
Legal 500 2021, Public International Law:
“Classy, and brilliantly smart, a pleasure to work with and adored by clients for her ability to pull together a flawless case.”
Chambers and Partners, 2020:
“Extraordinarily impressive advocacy and her rapport-building capabilities with witnesses and the tribunal alike are second to none. She is an absolute delight to work with, a true team player, and has an incredible brain.”
“I was blown away by her advocacy. She’s so calm and persuasive; she knows the best points and gets them across in a way that really instils confidence.”
“She’s very good on both legal argument and advocacy, and I’ve been really impressed with her innovative approach.”
“She has a very well-judged style and wins the confidence of the court.”
Legal 500, 2019:
“A brilliant oral advocate who performs exceptionally well before the most prestigious international courts and arbitral tribunals.”
“She is incredibly bright and comes up with innovative solutions at every turn.”
“One of the key advocates in complex appeals raising novel points of law.”
Chambers and Partners, 2019:
“An asset to the Bar. She is extremely approachable, intelligent and always quick to help out where she can. She gets the issues and delivers a first-class service.”
“Simply amazing, fantastically bright, personable, approachable and delivers a truly outstanding and effective service.”
“She is ferociously clever.”
Chambers and Partners, 2018:
“Her knowledge of the area is vast and her experience is blatantly obvious. She has an excellent advocacy manner which is compelling and effective and perfectly judged, and she is brilliant with the client. An impressive operator.”
“Able to take complex legal arguments and present them in a very simple and straightforward way”
“She is excellent, her written work is brilliant.”
“A very clever, smart advocate.”
Legal 500, 2018:
“An excellent barrister – responsive and a true team player”
“A valuable asset in the litgation team”
Chambers and Partners, 2017:
“She’s first rate, incredibly bright and capable of dealing with complex issues by turning them into understandable concepts”
“She has a relaxed and measured style that is compelling.”
Chambers and Partners, 2016:
“She is an intellectual giant, works incredibly hard, is very cool under pressure and will never back down when she knows she is right on an issue”
“She’s a brilliant lawyer. She works incredibly hard and is very cool under pressure”
“She is a fantastically good tactical leader who combines a strong knowledge of international law with killer litigation instincts”
Chambers Global 2016, Public International Law:
“Extremely good and one of the very few barristers who works at the confluence between criminal, public and commercial law”
1999: Elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford
1999-2000: Visiting Lecturer in Public Law, King’s College London
2000: Called to the Bar (Gray’s Inn)
2017: Appointed Queen’s Counsel
BA (Law), Queens’ College, Cambridge, 1998: starred first; came top of year and was awarded the Slaughter & May prize for the best performance in law finals and the George Long prize for jurisprudence
BCL, Wadham College, Oxford, 1999 (first class)
Gray’s Inn Bedingfield Scholarship 1999-2000
Bar Vocational Qualification, 2000
1998: Slaughter and May Prize for best performance in law finals, University of Cambridge.
1998: George Long Prize for Jurisprudence, University of Cambridge.
2000: Bedingfield Scholarship, Gray’s Inn.
- Selected Publications and Talks
- “Emerging issues in Energy ISDS”, panellist, British Institute of International and Comparitive Law (Investment Treaty Forum), April 2023
- “The role of international courts during armed conflict”, panellist, Harvard International Arbitration Conference, March 2023
- “ESG in investment arbitration: status and trends”, panellist, Swiss Arbitration Association, Zurich, February 2023
- “A challenge to our generation: Ukraine and accountability under international law”, panellist, New York Arbitration Week, November 2022
- “The impact on business of Governments’ climate change commitments”, chair, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and Jones Day, October 2022
- “Civil and criminal fraud: the international dimension”: lecture to London Solicitors Litigation Association, July 2022
- “The rise and rise of state power in international disputes”: panellist, London International Disputes Week, May 2021
- “Enforcement against States: hot topics in Europe”: panellist, French Arbitration Committee’s under 40 group (CFA40), December 2020
- “State responsibility for aiding and assisting”, panellist, London Conference on International Law, October 2019
- “The Limits of International Law as an Agent of Change”: lecture, Annual Conference of the International Law Association (British Branch), April 2019
- “Adjudicators, Negotiators, and the Evolution of Maritime Delimitation Law”, panellist, Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, April 2018
- “The Use of Force in relation to Sovereignty Disputes over Land Territory”: panellist, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, March 2018
- Contributing author, Canons of Construction and other Interpretive Principles in Public International Law (Kluwer, 2018)
- “Doing business with states: recent lessons learned”, Journal of International Banking and Financial Law (2018)
- Co-author, with Tim Owen KC, Prison Law (5th ed, Oxford University Press, 2015) Contributor to Fox and Webb, State Immunity (Oxford University Press, 2013)
- General Editor, with Ben Emmerson KC and Professor Andrew Ashworth KC, Human Rights and Criminal Justice (3rd ed, Sweet and Maxwell, 2012)