In the most recent of legislative efforts to bring Joseph Kony to justice, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator John Boozman (R-AR) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand upon the Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program to provide incentives for offering information that leads to the arrest or conviction of individuals wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. The bill complements legislation introduced in the House in February that also calls for the program to be expanded.
The Rewards for Justice program, established in 1984, currently grants the secretary of state authority to provide financial rewards in exchange for information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals wanted for terrorism and narcotics trafficking and by the three international criminal tribunals—Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. The modernization of this legislation would expand the secretary of state’s power to reward the provision of tips facilitating the conviction of individuals accused of transnational organized crimes and those wanted by any international criminal tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. The efforts of Senators Kerry and Boozman and cosponsors Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Mary Landreiu (D-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) further propel the fight to stop Kony and the atrocities carried out by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
As Kerry championed in his address last week, “Information is a powerful tool and with these authorities, we can help bring brutal and dangerous fugitives to justice.” Strongly urging the adoption of the legislation, he emphasized that “these kinds of programs promote tips and leads that lead to arrests and make criminal activities themselves more difficult.” If implemented, rewards—which include amnesty—for information leading to the capture of Joseph Kony could be publicized by radio broadcast, leaflets, or matchbook covers. In the same vein, these mediums will enhance standing efforts that promote the defection of LRA members.
The bill would be a valuable addition to the efforts the Unites States government has made to assist the termination of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) claimed the expanded Rewards for Justice program is “another tool in the toolkit.” It would complement existing initiatives, like the deployment of 100 U.S. military advisers to central Africa and a resolution that endorses government efforts in LRA affected countries that is currently backed by a bipartisan groups of 43 senators led by Senator Coons and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
With the spike in attention to the Lord’s Resistance Army lately, members of the U.S. Congress want it known that the issue has long been on their radar, and that they’re grateful for the public support. Senators and former senators highlighted their years of work focused on ending the LRA. In a video recently distributed by Senator Coons, many of the longtime champions of anti-LRA legislation and government actions describe how they came to this work, what they think must still be done, and how continued public attention can help keep the LRA issue at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy priorities.
Laura Heaton contributed to this post.
Photo: Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (foreign.senate.gov)