Monday, January 07, 2013

New US Law to Permit Rewards for Persons Wanted by ICC, Including Joseph Kony

On January 3, the House passed and sent to the President S.2318, The Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012. President Obama signed it on January 15, thus bringing it into law, thereby expanding Rewards for Justice. Behind its dry and technical-sounding title lie provisions which move Congress and the Administration perceptibly further toward a closer general relationship with the International Criminal Court.

The original law began in 1984 and was then directed at promoting arrests in conventional international organized crime such as drug trafficking, and of terrorists. However, in the last two years, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp has led a State Department effort to expand the law to include the atrocity criminals whom the ICC tries. The bill which became S.2318 was introduced in the House by Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), who is chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the new Congress. It had 57 bipartisan sponsors and passed the House in July. Senator Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced S.2138 itself in the Senate which passed it on December 20.

The new law declares "the sense of Congress that the rewards program of the Department of State should be expanded in order to ... target other individuals indicted by international, hybrid or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity." It then goes on to authorize the State Department to pay rewards for "the transfer to or conviction by an international criminal tribunal ... of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, as defined under the statute of such tribunal."

Two provisions of the law show a continuing wariness about the ICC. One requires that 15 days before announcing a reward for the arrest of a particular foreign national accused of those crimes, the State Department must submit a report to Congress explaining why the arrest would be in the national security interest of the United States. The other declares that the law does not authorized activities precluded under the American Servicemembers' Protection Act.

The worldwide attention to the crimes of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, and the previous individual laws referring to the ICC's work on specific cases were among the elements of the impetus for this new law. A future post will analyze the trends behind its passage, and its importance for our current advocacy and our strategy for the future.

Wanted poster, published by the Rewards for Justice program, seeking key perpetrators who have been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
A US State Department poster announcing rewards for individuals wanted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

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