The U.S. Senate last night passed bipartisan legislation to expand and modernize the State Department Rewards Program to combat war crimes and transnational organized crime. S.2318, sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.), along with other members, would provide the government with more tools to help bring to justice those accused of committing mass atrocities--such as the 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.
"I'm glad we got this done despite the polarization that's frozen Washington on too many other issues. This is just common sense, bipartisan foreign policy to arm the government with more tools to bring the world's worst war criminals to justice," said Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It will promote the leads and tips needed to hobble transnational organized crime, the movement of international criminals, and go right after horrific people like Joseph Kony, who have destabilized entire regions, and transnational criminal organizations that pose threats not only abroad, but right in our own back yard."
"When I traveled to Uganda in April, U.S. military advisors and Ugandan officials both made it clear that the Rewards for Justice Program would be crucial to their mission to remove Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army from the battlefield," said Senator Isakson, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. "I am pleased that the Senate approved the expansion of the program, and I am hopeful that the House will move quickly to pass it."
"For more than two decades, Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army have terrorized central Africa, tearing apart families and destroying communities," said Senator Coons, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. "This legislation provides important new tools to help incentivize and expedite the capture of Kony, LRA commanders, and other international criminals and ensure they are held accountable for their crimes. I will continue to work with my colleagues to support regionally led efforts to end the LRA's reign of terror and remove Joseph Kony and his lieutenants from the battlefield."
"This is a step to providing justice for the thousands of Africans who suffered at the hands of Joseph Kony and the LRA," said Sen. Boozman. "Expanding the Rewards Program is another tool for us to use to help track down this elusive war criminal and hold him accountable for the atrocities he committed. Somewhere, someone knows his whereabouts and I am hopeful this legislation will encourage an exchange of information that will lead to his capture."
S. 2318 expands the existing State Department Rewards Program, which is aimed at terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and war crimes from certain previous conflicts, to include rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of transnational organized crime or the disruption of international criminal networks engaging in activities such as cybercrime or trafficking in persons, arms, or illicit wildlife. The bill also authorizes the federal government, with prior notification to Congress, to issue and publicize rewards leading to the arrest or conviction of foreign nationals wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.