Zeenat was appointed as Junior Counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in 2017. She is actively involved in Phase 2 of the Inquiry, involved with assessing the actions of the government in response to the fire in the immediate aftermath, in respect of the provision of humanitarian relief to the bereaved, survivors and residents. Within the aftermath module, she leads on areas in relation to No10, the Cabinet Office, the TMO, the bereaved, survivors and residents and community organisations involved in the response. Zeenat was also involved with Phase 1 of the Inquiry and contributed to the Phase 1 report.
Zeenat welcomes instructions to represent bereaved families, non-state/corporate bodies and as independent counsel.
Challenges Against Public Bodies
Prior to joining One Pump Court, Zeenat was an established criminal defence practitioner at 25 Bedford Row. As such, she has an in-depth knowledge of criminal justice issues with particular expertise in relation to counter-terrorism, youth justice and racial justice issues. She has advised on police complaints, the Victim’s Right of Review process and civil actions against the police. She welcomes instructions relating to challenges arising from criminal proceedings and interactions with the police and other state agents.
Zeenat has advised on potential judicial review proceedings in relation to religious discrimination in educational institutions, referrals to PREVENT, closed cases by the police and police complaints in relation to wrongful arrest. Additionally, as part of her teaching at the University of Warwick, she designed and delivered the curriculum for the module which was based on judicial review proceedings in relation to emergency coronavirus legislation and the impact on the right to protest.
Zeenat has significant experience of working with young people and as such is interested in public law challenges of policies and decisions affecting young people. She is particularly interested in issues that disproportionately impact those from racialised and minoritised religious groups.
Zeenat was instructed on behalf of a group of parents who sought to challenge the school and local authority on the failure to properly consult in respect of the government’s recent Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Policy. In addition to the failure to properly consult, the case engaged a number of other issues including parental rights, religious liberty and discrimination.
Following the government’s handling of the A-Level results crisis as a result of COVID in 2020, Zeenat worked with and advised a number of students and parents from underrepresented backgrounds about how they could challenge their centre assessed grades, or in situations where no centre assessed grades were provided, what options were available to them. As a result of this work, Zeenat was featured on ITV news and worked with journalists to ensure there was coverage about private resit candidates who had not been provided for by the government.
Zeenat is particularly interested in cases that engage the wider public interest. Through her work, she emphasises the importance of litigation being supported by non-legal forms of advocacy. She is keen to work with grassroots organisations, activists and third sector organisations.
Human Rights & Public International Law
Zeenat has wide ranging interests in human rights, social justice and international law from practitioner, academic and NGO/grassroots perspectives.
Prior to the Bar, Zeenat worked as a Research Associate for the Warwick Centre for Human Rights. She worked across a number of areas including: research and report writing for the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, human rights and equality impact assessments, Sharia Law in a globalised world, refugee protection in the Middle East and international criminal justice issues.
She volunteered for Restless Beings, an international human rights organisation advocating for marginalised communities including the Rohingya community and Uighur Muslims. During her time with the organisation, she led teams in PR, Youth Outreach and the Legal/Human Rights department where she provided organisation wide training.
Zeenat has been keen to engage with organisations internationally. In 2015 she was a delegate on the ‘Lessons from Srebrencia’ programme with the charity Remembering Srebrenica. Over the course of the programme, she learnt first hand about the siege of Sarajevo, the Srebrencia genocide and the role of international law in providing some semblance of justice to victims and their families. Seperately, she was also involved with an education project with the charity UNIPAL and spent time volunteering in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
In 2016, Zeenat received a Pegasus Scholarship from the Inns of Court to undertake a Fellowship at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, renowned for its movement lawyering approach. She worked within the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative and international human rights team. She was involved with researching arguments for habeas corpus petitions challenging the unlawful detention of remaining prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. She also provided research assistance in relation to the blockade on Gaza and illegal settlement buility activity in occupied Palestine.
In 2018, Zeenat received a grant from the Bar Council to take part in the ‘International Lawyering in the Public Interest’’ summer programme at TMC Asser Institute in The Hague in affiliation with the University of Amsterdam. In addition to developing her international network, she deepened her understanding of strategic litigation, the importance of advocacy outside of the courtroom and how better to support community organisations in creating coalitions to achieve social change. She has continued to embody this learning into her legal practice in the UK.
Domestically, Zeenat takes a human rights centred approach to all of her work. She has explored international and domestic standards for humanitarian relief for victims and survivors in her Inquiry work, made human rights arguments in the criminal justice context, advised on the merits of making an application to the European Court of Human Rights and subsequently drafted an application.
Zeenat’s academic background is defined by her commitment to human rights work. She completed her LLM in Public International Law at the LSE specialising in terrorism and the rule of law, the international law of self-determination, use of force and laws of war, international human rights and rethinking international law. She is particularly interested in critical legal perspectives in a broader historical, social and political context and is regularly invited to speak on these issues.
Zeenat is keen to develop this area of work and is available for consultancy and advisory work on behalf of NGOs, community organisations, and individuals.
Associate Tutor at the University of Warwick
Zeenat teaches Practical Advocacy on the LLB programme at the University of Warwick.
Zeenat is the founder of REDEFINED Lawyers, an alternative platform for activists and lawyers from underrepresented backgrounds championing social justice and social change. The project exists as a direct challenge to mainstream approaches to lawyering. We seek to critically examine and disrupt the status quo when it comes to what lawyers are supposed to be, what legal education looks like and what the role of a lawyer is.
YOU*th Inspire is an award winning educational initiative working with young people from underrepresented backgrounds across the themes of social justice, social mobility and skills development. The project seeks to inspire a voice of activism in young people and mobilise them to achieve, grow and contrinute positively to their communities. Zeenat founded the project in 2009 and has worked with hundreds of young people across the UK.
Speaker, Trainer and Consultant
Zeenat has a wide ranging portfolio of speaking, training and consultancy engagements across the legal, education, business and third sectors.
- Presentation at (In)justice International conference: ‘A Radical Rethink: The Law as a Tool of Oppression’
- Training for University of Law staff in Birmingham on improving educational outcomes for Asian women students
- Women of the World (WOW) Festival Panel: “What should young women’s education look like in the twenty-first century?”
- Lush Film Festival x Amaliah Panel: “The Judge Film: How do Muslim women access their God given rights?”
- Advisory work for philanthropist funder of university scholarship for BAME students in relation to improving quality and impact of the programme
- Training on youth justice for third sector organisations: ‘How to help your vulnerable service users in the Criminal Justice System’
- LawyerUP, Diversity & Inclusion panel
- Lincoln’s Inn: ‘The Equality Act 2010, 10 Years On’
- The Materialist Lawyers Group: ‘Getting Pupillage in a Racist, Classist, Sexist System’
- SOAS, Navigating Law as a Muslim Woman workshop
- Warwick Women’s Summit: ‘Women of Power, Leaders, Shakers and Movers’
- Muslim Lawyers Action Group: ‘Sisters doin’ it for themsevles’ International Women’s Day event
- Project Ribcage panel: “Pioneering – why it matters and why bother?”
- Keynote speech launching Critical Lawyers at Warwick group
ITV News feature on the A-Level results scandal 2020
Islam Channel: How can Muslim women respond to tokenism? 2020
Activism & Improving Access to Legal Careers, TSL 2020
Allied Justice, ‘The Barrister-Activist Trailblazing Social Justice’ Women in Leadership series 2020
Interview with Zeenat Islam: Founder of REDEFINED, TSL Podcast
Islam Channel: City Reflections series 2018
British Muslim TV: “Slay in Your Lane” feature 2018
Islam Channel on Youth Justice 2018
One TV: Showcasing British Bangladeshi talent 2018
Islam Channel: International Women’s Day 2018 event on ‘Identity, Women’s Activism and Lawyering’
Project Ribcage:“Barrister, Activist & Founder” 2018
Featured in British Bangladeshi Power & Inspiration List 2016 and 2017
Carving a Path to Justice: Race Justice in the Legal Sector, Women in Law May 2016