International Law

Belated Report: $5 Million Reward for Joseph Kony's Transfer to the International Criminal Court

By John Bellinger
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 7:38 PM

Better late than never.   I have been meaning to report for some time Secretary Kerry's announcement earlier this month -- via an op-ed in the Huffington Post -- that the State Department is now offering a $5 million reward  for information that leads to the arrest, transfer, and conviction of the top three leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army: Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen. All three are charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Kerry also announced a similar reward for Sylvestre Mudacumura, a Rwanda warlord indicted by the ICC for attacks on civilians in the 1990s.

The rewards are offered pursuant to legislation passed by Congress earlier this year and signed by the President on January 15 that expands the State Department's longstanding "Rewards for Justice" program to allow payment of rewards for "individuals indicted by international, hybrid, or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity."  (Note:  In a "technical correction," the legislation also deleted the requirement that the State Department offer a reward of $50 million for the capture or death of Osama Bin Laden.)

Who would have thought that congressional Republicans would support payment of U.S tax dollars for the delivery of war criminals to the ICC?   But this legislation is a rare of example of how Republicans and Democrats can actually work together to overcome their ideological differences on international law and institutions to support international justice.   The legislation was strongly supported by Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and John Kerry, when he was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

To address the distate for the ICC among many Congressional Republicans, Section 5 of the legislation makes clear that the legislation does not authorize any activity precluded by the American Servicemembers Protection Act, the strongly anti-ICC legislation passed by Congress in 2002.   The legislation also requires advance notice to Congress before the announcement of any reward offered for an individual who might be transferred to an international criminal tribunal.

Last summer, on the tenth anniversary of the Rome Statute, I urged in an op-ed in the Washington Post that Congress review provisions in the ASPA that hinder US support to the ICC:

Next month’s anniversary is an appropriate time for Congress to review U.S. policy toward the court and whether the restrictions (including the authorization to invade The Hague) in the American Service-Members’ Protection Act do more harm than good. Although the law contains exceptions and waivers (some of which I negotiated), it has hindered the Bush and Obama administrations from providing some forms of assistance to the court, even in cases for which there is strong bipartisan support for holding war criminals such as Bashir and Kony accountable.

No president should submit the Rome treaty to the Senate until the concerns identified by Clinton and Bush have been addressed. But Congress must balance these concerns with the United States’ long-standing and bipartisan commitment to international justice. When the partisanship of this election year subsides, Congress should modify the restrictions in the 2002 law that have prevented the United States from supporting the court in cases where justice for international atrocities cannot be achieved through other means.

Having demonstrated an ability to work together to amend the Rewards for Justice legislation, congressional Republicans and Democrats should take the next step to amend the ASPA to allow greater U.S. support to the ICC in appropriate cases.