Enabling Legislation: Enhancement of State Department Rewards Programs

January 16, 2013

President Obama yesterday signed into law the Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012, S. 2318. This new legislation enhances the ability of the United States to bring to justice major fugitives and provides the U.S. Government with an additional tool to combat transnational organized crime.

The new Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program is a key element of the White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, which recognizes that criminal networks are not only expanding in size and scope, but also diversifying their illicit activities. The new program will build on the success of the existing Narcotics Rewards Program by authorizing rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of significant members of transnational criminal organizations involved in activities beyond narcotics trafficking that threaten national security, such as human trafficking, and trafficking in arms or other illicit goods.

The enhanced statutory authorities under this law also allow the War Crimes Rewards Program to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes by an international criminal tribunal, including hybrid or mixed tribunals. Notably, this legislation could be used to enhance ongoing regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized civilians across central Africa for decades and whose leaders have been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity and war crimes. It could also be used to combat impunity for commanders of other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who face similar charges at the International Criminal Court.