Overview

Nicholas Lawn leads Van Bael & Bellis’ London-based International Dispute Resolution team. He specialises in international arbitration and litigation with a particular focus on investment arbitration and public international law.  

Over the course of nearly 20 years, he has advised a range of clients - companies, individuals and governments - in relation to international disputes across numerous sectors including telecoms, energy, banking and finance, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and mining and under a variety of different arbitral rules including under the ICSID, UNCITRAL, ICC and LCIA Arbitration Rules.

Nicholas has won some of the largest investment arbitration awards of recent years. Most recently, he successfully acted for Vodafone in its landmark arbitral victory against the Republic of India. In its award, the UNCITRAL Tribunal held that India’s attempts to impose a US$ 5.5 billion tax liability on Vodafone through retroactive legislation was in breach of international law.

In addition to substantial India-related disputes experience, his expertise and experience extends to matters involving Africa, Russia / CIS and Latin America (where he spent time working in one of Argentina’s leading law firms with one of Latin America’s leading arbitrators).

For a number of years, Nicholas has been identified as one of London’s leading arbitration practitioners. Most recently, he was included in the International Arbitration Powerlist (2019) and named as a Rising Star for International Arbitration and Public International Law by Legal 500 UK (2021).

Nicholas is a Solicitor-Advocate with rights of audience in the Higher Courts of England and Wales.

Languages 

English

Recommendations

  • Legal 500’s International Arbitration Powerlist
  • Legal 500 for International Arbitration (UK) – Rising Star
  • Legal 500 for Public International Law (UK) – Rising Star 

Education 

  • LL.M., Columbia Law School
  • B.A., University of Oxford

Publications

Lexology GTDT, Investment Treaty Arbitration 2021 (EU Chapter)

Lexology GTDT, Intra-EU Investment Arbitration: Where Are We Now? (Article)

Arbitration World (6th Edition), The Energy Charter Treaty (Chapter)

Bar Admissions

Solicitor Advocate, England & Wales

Solicitor, Republic of Ireland

Publications and insights

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    • 03/08/2021
    • Articles

    Brussels Court of Appeal Upholds Attachment Order against Kazakhstan

    On 29 June 2021, the Brussels Court of Appeal (the Court of Appeal) handed down a judgment in which it upheld a protective attachment order over more than USD 500 million worth of assets, owned by Kazakhstan, and held with the Brussels subsidiary of the Bank of New York Mellon (the BNYM). Background The proceedings before the Belgian courts result from the efforts of two Moldovan investors (Anatolie and Gabriel Stati (the Investors)) who seek to enforce an arbitral award handed down in their favour in 2013. The arbitral tribunal (chaired by Karl-Heinz Böckstiegel) had found Kazakhstan liable for a harassment campaign against the Investors which ultimately resulted in a violation of the Energy Charter Treaty provisions on Fair and Equitable Treatment. As a result, the arbitral tribunal had ordered Kazakhstan to pay USD 508 million to the Investors as compensation for the damage suffered. In the absence of voluntary payment from Kazakhstan, the Investors sought a protective attachment order from the Brussels Court of First Instance in 2017 enabling them to freeze assets owned by Kazakhstan held with BNYM pending the outcome of the proceeding leading to the recognition and enforcement of their arbitral award in Belgium. The protective attachment order was obtained in ex parte proceedings (i.e., without notice to Kazakhstan). However, upon notice of the attachment order, Kazakhstan lodged a third-party opposition (tierce opposition / derdenverzet) challenging the validity of the protective order. After the Brussels Court of First Instance dismissed the third-party opposition, Kazakhstan appealed that decision before the Court of Appeal.

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    • 14/07/2021
    • News

    Brussels Court Issues Judgment against Belgian Federal and Regional Governments in Climate Change Litigation

    On 17 June 2021, the French-speaking Brussels Court of First Instance (Franstalige rechtbank van eerste aanleg te Brussel / Tribunal de première instance francophone de Bruxelles; the Court) handed down its judgment in the so-called “Klimaatzaak” case, in which it found that the federal government as well as the governments of the three regions (i.e., Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) breached Article 1382 of the Belgian Civil Code on tort liability and Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the ECHR) by failing to take the necessary measures to limit the adverse effects of climate change on the country’s population. On 27 April 2015, the environmental non-profit association “Klimaatzaak” representing 58,000 Belgian citizens (the claimants) filed a lawsuit against the Belgian federal government as well as against the governments of the three regions, alleging that these authorities breached their general duty of care and the citizen’s human rights by failing to implement their commitments in terms of fighting climate change. In its judgment, the Court first addressed the admissibility of the claim brought by the claimants. It held that the 58,000 Belgian citizens showed a personal and direct interest in the legal action in view of the real threat of climate change and of its present and future adverse consequences on the daily lives of citizens in Belgium and elsewhere. In addition, the Court considered that the non-profit association “Klimaatzaak” had an independent personal and direct interest in the legal action in accordance with its statutory object, clearly aimed at combating climate change. On the merits, the Court considered that both the federal government and each of the governments of the three regions were individually liable for failing to implement their climate obligations. The Court based its reasoning on three findings. First, Belgium showed mixed results in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (the GHG emissions) and therefore failed to meet international, European and national GHG emissions reduction targets. More specifically Belgium failed to comply with: • international targets laid down in the 2012 Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1997; • European targets set out in the Decision No 406/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions; • internal targets that Belgian authorities have set for themselves. In addition, experts projected that Belgium will also not meet the targets for 2030 set by the EU Regulation 2018/842 of 30 May 2018 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030, even if additional internal policies were implemented. Second, the Belgian authorities failed to implement a strong climate governance. In particular, the Court considered that since climate policy is a competence shared between the federal government and the governments of each of the three regions, these entities should have taken appropriate coordinated actions to ensure that their climate obligations were met. Third, the Court noted that Belgium received repeated warnings from the European Union concerning its failure to meets its climate commitments. These findings, together with the fact that the Belgian authorities had full knowledge of the risks of climate change on the country’s population led the Court to conclude that neither the federal government, nor the governments of the three regions acted with the degree of care and diligence required by Article 1382 of the Belgian Civil Code. In addition, the Court considered that the same authorities breached the claimants' rights to life and right to privacy enshrined in Articles 2 and 8 of the ECHR. In that respect the Court stressed that the authorities did not take appropriate measures to prevent the risks and adverse consequences of climate change on the claimants’ life and privacy. The Court nonetheless rejected the claimants’ request for an injunction to further reduce the GHG emissions by 48% (or at least by 42%) in 2025, by 65% (or at least by 55%) in 2030, and by 100% in 2050. In particular, it found that whilst it could be determined that the federal government and the government of the three regions were liable for breach of their legal obligations, the principle of separation of powers did not allow the Court to intervene in political decisions and set specific GHG emission reduction targets. The claimants communicated their intention to appeal this part of the judgment before the Brussels Court of Appeal and to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights.

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    • 15/06/2021
    • News

    Van Bael & Bellis signs the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge

    On 14 June, Van Bael & Bellis signed the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge. The Arbitration Pledge brings together arbitration counsel, arbitrators, corporations, states as well as arbitral institutions and academics who want to improve the profile and representation of women in International Arbitration. Nick Lawn, Head of VBB’s International Arbitration practice said, “The overall objective of the Arbitration Pledge is to achieve fair representation of women in the arbitration community. As well as seeking to improve the profile and representation of women in arbitration more generally, the Arbitration Pledge encourages the appointment of women as arbitrators on an equal opportunity basis”. Isabelle Van Damme, Partner commented, “VBB’s strong support of this initiative is part of the Firm’s overall commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive working environment in all of its offices”.

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