Congress to Consider Expansion of Rewards for Justice Program

Kony Wanted poster

In September 2006, Khadaffi Janjalani—one of the highest ranking members of the Islamic fundamentalist group Abu Sayyaf—was killed in the Philippines. Janjalani was notorious for kidnapping and killing several U.S. citizens and had also conducted a series of attacks targeting U.S. interests. He was tracked down after several Filipino citizens provided information on where he was and how he might be apprehended, prompted by the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program—a program which provides compensation to individuals who come forward with information that leads to the capture or killing of key internationally wanted criminals.

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade is now considering legislation that would expand the Rewards for Justice Program to bolster efforts to arrest the most wanted international criminals, including longtime leader of Lord’s Resistance Army Joseph Kony.

The Rewards for Justice program was established in 1984 to incentivize potential informants to provide the U.S. government with information leading to the arrest or conviction of wanted criminals. There are currently three divisions of this program: terrorism, narcotics, and war crimes. However, the war crimes division currently applies only to individuals wanted by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The proposed expansion of the program, under H.R. 4077, would allow for it to include other individuals wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It is highly likely that Joseph Kony would be one of the first people added to this list if the expansion is granted.

Testifying at a hearing earlier this month, Ambassador Stephen Rapp from the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice offered his support for H.R. 4077, explaining that the expansion would help advance U.S. foreign policy objectives in specific cases, including those of Kony and other Lord’s Resistance Army’s senior commanders. He believes that applying the rewards program to Kony could help bolster current U.S. efforts to find and apprehend him. It was also mentioned that criminals like Kony sometimes feel pressured to cease their operations once they learn that there is a price on their head.  Ambassador Rapp noted that the U.S. advisors currently deployed in central Africa believe that the rewards program could help their efforts. He also mentioned that the expanded program could encourage current LRA combatants to escape and defect from the LRA—which could help lead to Kony’s capture. Ambassador Rapp has served as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, as well as Senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

If the program were expanded as proposed under H.R. 4077, an interagency committee would determine whether or not criminals such as Kony should be included in the program. If Kony and his top commanders were added to the program, it would then be widely publicized using leaflets, radio broadcasts, and other publicity tools that an award were being offered to people who can provide useful information leading to their arrest or conviction,

The Rewards for Justice Program currently pays informants on average around $400,000 for providing information leading to the arrest or conviction of war criminals, with the maximum possible amount paid out being $5 million and depending on a number of factors. In extraordinary cases, the maximum can be extended up to $25 million. The Secretary of State has the authority to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of informants and the informants’ family. While even the smallest cash reward is a considerable financial incentive for most people, it also has potentially life-changing ramifications for people living in areas affected by the LRA.

Photo: Joseph Kony Wanted poster (Enough)