WASHINGTON - Congress has approved legislation that would expand the U.S. State Department's rewards for justice program to target the world's most serious human rights abusers, with African warlord Joseph Kony a top target.
The House passed the bill Tuesday night and sent it to President Barack Obama for his signature. The State Department strongly backed the legislation.
The program, established in 1984, gives the secretary of state the authority to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits or attempts international terrorist acts. The amount of the reward would be at the secretary's discretion.
The bill would expand the program to target individuals involved in transnational organized crime or foreign nationals wanted by any international criminal tribunal for war crimes or genocide.
"This bill responds to the need to develop more tools to pursue the world's worst," said Rep. Ed Royce, sponsor of the legislation and the next chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Kony and his guerrilla group, the Lord's Resistance Army, are responsible for a nearly three-decade campaign of terror in Central Africa marked by child abductions and widespread killings. The United States designated the LRA a terrorist organization in 2001. Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for attacks in multiple countries.
In 2010, Obama dispatched 100 U.S. troops — mostly Army Special Forces — to Central Africa to advise regional forces in their hunt for Kony.
"U.S. military advisers working in Central Africa consider a reward offer on Kony as critical to their effort," Royce said. "This action bolsters the hunt."
In the Senate, the bill had the strong support of John Kerry, Obama's pick to be the next secretary of state when Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to step down early this year.
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