In the final hours of a congressional session marred by minimal public support, a bright spot emerged – the passage of the “Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012,” commonly referred to as “Rewards for Justice.” It’s a critical expansion of legislation targeting “individuals indicted by international, hybrid or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.”
The bill authorizes cash rewards, up to $5 million, for information leading to the arrest of Joseph Kony, the infamous commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, known for the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as the brutal crimes they’ve committed throughout Central Africa. “This bill responds to the need to develop more tools to pursue the world’s worst,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), sponsor of the bill, said.
More than just Kony
The bill gained support due to pressure from the widespread Kony 2012 campaign, putting Kony as a central target of the legislation. However, in addition to Kony, it extends to perpetrators of transnational organized crime foreign nationals accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide by an international criminal tribunal, including the International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Among those indicted by the ICC is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his role in the Darfur genocide and Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese warlord who is charged with seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity.
Additionally, it is thought that by broadcasting the rewards, the law will also play a significant role in encouraging the defections of combatants in rebel armies that are controlled by indicted war criminals, such as Congolese rebel group M23 which is led by Bosco Ntaganda and Kony’s LRA.
The Rewards for Justice Program has served as a valuable tool in the pursuit of international terrorism. Since its inception in 1984, the United States has paid over $100 million in rewards to over 70 individuals who have disclosed information that “prevented international terrorist attacks or helped bring to justice those involved in prior acts.” Most notably, the Rewards for Justice Program played a significant role in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
This legislation has the potential to disrupt and dismantle international criminal groups and should be instrumental in apprehending some of the worst war criminals and terrorists. President Obama signed the bill into law this afternoon and Tom Andrews, President of United to End Genocide, was invited to attend the signing at the White House. United to End Genocide looks forward to working with activists and advocates to use Rewards for Justice to bring the world’s worst enemies to justice.