Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) today introduced bipartisan legislation to expand and modernize the existing Department of State Rewards Program. This legislation (S. 2318) would provide the State Department with valuable tools to help bring to justice those accused of committing mass atrocities--such as Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony--or engaging in transnational organized crime, including intellectual property rights piracy, trafficking in persons, arms trafficking, and cybercrime. The bill complements other U.S. law enforcement and Department of Defense efforts, including those of the 100 U.S. military advisers serving in Central Africa to strengthen the regional counter-LRA campaign. Senator Kerry is joined by cosponsors, Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson(R-GA), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL).
"This is an important bi-partisan initiative that needs to get passed right away. We've been working on this legislation with the State Department to expand our arsenal of weapons against war criminals like Joseph Kony, who have destabilized entire regions, and transnational criminal organizations that pose threats not only abroad, but right in our back yard," said Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "Information is a powerful tool and with these authorities, we can help bring brutal and dangerous fugitives to justice. These kinds of programs promote tips and leads that lead to arrests and hobble the movement of international criminals. It sends a message to brutal thugs like Kony that their days are numbered and they can only hide out for so long."
"People who suffered at the hands of criminals deserve to see those responsible for their pain facing justice. Having seen first-hand the injustice and unimaginable cruelty of Ugandan people at the hands of Joseph Kony I understand the pressing need to apprehend him and end his reign of terror once and for all," Boozman said.
Existing law allows the State Department to issue rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of persons wanted for terrorism and narcotics trafficking. It also permits rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of persons charged by three international criminal tribunals that were created to prosecute war crimes committed decades ago in Sierra Leone, the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda--all of which are now winding down their activities (Only nine fugitives remain at large, all from Rwanda). The Kerry legislation would expand existing authority to allow the State Department to publicize and pay rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals engaged in transnational organized crime, or foreign nationals wanted by any international criminal tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. The bill includes an advance requirement for congressional notification prior to issuing a reward.
Expansion of the rewards program to new international criminal tribunals would help bring to justice those such as Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony. Rewards are publicized by radio broadcast, leaflets, or even matchbook covers, and could encourage tips leading to the capture of Kony and other key commanders or defections by other members of the LRA. The Department of Defense has affirmed that this would complement and enhance their efforts in the field.
Expansion of the program to transnational organized crime would help dismantle criminal networks engaged in transnational crimes such as piracy, arms trafficking, trafficking in persons, and cybercrime. In addition to permitting rewards for tips that lead to the arrest or conviction of transnational organized crime figures, the legislation would also authorize rewards for information leading to the prevention or disruption of ongoing criminal acts by those groups, or the identification of their leaders. Transnational criminal organizations pose serious threats to democratic institutions abroad and to Americans here at home as well.