Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed legislation (H.R. 6018) related to the basic functions of the Department of State. Included in the legislation are provisions authored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) in H.R. 4077 to revise and update the rewards programs run by the State Department. Currently, the State Department offers reward money for information related to terrorists, narcotics traffickers, and specific international war criminals. When signed into law, the rewards program would be expanded to also target transnational organized crime and those wanted for the most serious human rights abuses.
"Targeting those who assist terrorists and drug cartels with weapons, sophisticated forgeries, and money laundering is just as important as targeting the organizations themselves. A rewards program in this area can help disrupt these transnational organized crime networks," said Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.
"Critically, the language included allows the rewards program to target those who are wanted for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity -- the world's worst human rights abusers.
"Target one is Joseph Kony, the sadistic head of the LRA. U.S. military advisors working in Central Africa consider a reward offer on Kony as critical to their effort. They need this tool in the field now," said Royce.
Earlier this year, in testimony in front of Royce's Subcommittee, the senior State Department official dealing with war crimes called this legislation "critical" to the effort to locate Kony. Earlier this month, in a letter in support of H.R. 4077, the Department of Defense noted that these rewards programs "provide the Combatant Commander and Chief of Mission with relatively low-cost and effective tools to achieve national security objectives."
Background: Since the program's inception in 1984 under President Reagan, the U.S. government has given rewards to over 70 people who provided actionable intelligence that according to the State Department, prevented international terrorist attacks or helped convict individuals involved in terrorist acts. Royce led Congressional efforts to see that international arms dealer Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008, was extradited to the U.S. to stand trial. In 2010, Royce -- a former chair of the Africa Subcommittee -- was an original sponsor of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The successful legislation made it the policy of the U.S. to "apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield."
Royce introduced H.R. 4077 on February 17, 2012. The legislation has garnered significant bipartisan support. Senate companion legislation (S. 2318) was introduced in April. The legislation is supported by the Departments of State and Defense.