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Germany ‘seeks extradition’ of Syria’s Jamil Hassan from Lebanon | Syria News

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Beirut, Lebanon – Germany has asked Lebanon to extradite Syrian General Jamil Hassan, Der Spiegel reported, after the notorious chief of Syria’s Air Force Intelligence Directorate was reportedly admitted to a hospital in Lebanon.

The German federal prosecutor had issued an arrest warrant against the general in June for committing crimes against humanity based on a complaint filed by Syrian refugees in Germany. 

Thousands of Syrians have allegedly been tortured in detention centres under direct control of General Hassan, Syria’s longest serving intelligence chief and considered to be among the most powerful officials in the country. 

Al-Masdar, an Arabic-language news outlet, first reported on Thursday that General Hassan was in Lebanon to seek medical treatment. There has been on official confirmation on his whereabouts since. 

Anwar al-Bunni, a Germany-based Syrian human rights lawyer, told Al Jazeera that his sources informed him that General Hassan was being treated under the watch of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed political group and militia, and a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I found out through sources in Syria and then through those in Lebanon that Jamil Hassan was in a hospital in Lebanon under Hezbollah’s protection,” said Bunni, who is helping former Syrian prisoners seeking justice in European countries.

“Germany’s foreign office called me to find out what I knew and I told them. I think they must have also collected their own intelligence.”

General Hassan is a member of al-Assad’s inner circle and a vociferous proponent of tougher tactics to quell the uprising that began in 2011. The United States treasury froze his assets because of his role in cracking down on protestors that year.

Patrick Kroker, a lawyer with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights which has also facilitated the filing of the case against General Hassan in Germany, said that the idea behind Germany’s diplomatic move is to restrict the general’s movement and send a message that Berlin is determined to not just “chase but also catch Hassan”.

“This is big,” he said. “It means that Germany did not issue the arrest warrant for symbolic reasons but is really going after him.”

However, Germany has shied away from officially confirming the extradition request. Al Jazeera reached out to the country’s federal prosecutor’s office but had yet to receive a response at the time of publication.

Lebanon’s Interior Ministry denied receiving any notification from Interpol to arrest the general.

Michael Aoun, Lebanon’s President, said that if General Hassan was in Lebanon, his office did not know. “If he [General Hassan] sneaked in because of the difficulty of controlling the border, it must be investigated,” Aoun said.

Aoun’s political party, the Free Patriotic Movement, is an ally of Hezbollah in the Lebanese parliament. However, experts said information about the possible whereabouts of the Syrian general may well have been concealed from him.

“Lebanon is under the control of Hezbollah which will never let the Lebanese government send the Syrian general to Germany,” Bunni said.

Kroker agreed and said that while chances of Lebanon handing the general over might be slim, the message is clear. “He cannot rely on the benevolence of every country he travels to, not for long.”

Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [ICC] and its citizens therefore cannot be prosecuted in The Hague. Furthermore, Russia and China have vetoed several attempts to set up an international tribunal to adjudicate on the crimes, purportedly to protect high-ranking officials in the Syrian administration such as General Hassan.

However, Germany’s universal jurisdiction laws allow it to prosecute people for war crimes committed anywhere in the world. Just last week, two Syrian intelligence officials were apprehended by German law enforcement. Anwar R was arrested for his involvement in torturing Syrians between 2011-12 and Eyad A for assisting in the killing of two and torturing of at least 2,000 people.

Kroker attached huge significance to the arrests. “For the first time, there will be a trial and Syrians would be able to see that it is possible to get justice. In all likelihood, it would be a public trial.”

These two officials were in Germany while General Hassan is unlikely to ever set foot in Europe. Germany cannot prosecute in absentia, leading experts to believe that he would escape a trial.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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