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Africa: Expansion of the War Crimes Rewards Program

April 03, 2013 / --

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. We are delighted today to have a special briefing from Stephen Rapp, our Ambassador-at-Large, and head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice. He’ll be joined by Ambassador Don Yamamoto, who is Acting Assistant Secretary for the Africa Bureau.

Let me without further ado turn it over to them. Ambassador Rapp.

AMBASSADOR RAPP: Thank you very much, Toria, for your introduction. I’m very pleased to be here today with Don Yamamoto, the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Africa Bureau, and also with a dear friend and former colleague from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Fatou Bensouda, who now serves as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

We’re here today to announce the designation of additional fugitives for a reward – for which a reward can be paid under recent legislation to expand the State Department’s longstanding War Crimes Rewards Program. We’re announcing today that the Secretary of State will offer up to $5 million for information leading to the arrests, the transfer, or conviction of three top leaders of the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army: Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen, as well as the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as the FDLR, Sylvestre Mudacumura. The nine fugitives that had earlier been designated for the ICTR, the Rwanda tribunal, will remain on the list.

Accountability is a key pillar of the United States Atrocity Prevention Initiative and our national security strategy, which states that the end of impunity and the promotion of justice are not just moral imperatives; they’re stabilizing forces in international affairs. We act today so that there can be justice for the innocent men, women, and children who have been subjected to mass murder, to rape, to amputation, enslavement, and other atrocities.

I’d like to tell you just a little about this program and its expansion. It’s managed by my office, the Office of Global Criminal Justice, here at the State Department. It originally offered rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of individuals indicted by the three international tribunals that were created for the former Yugoslavia, for Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Since 1998, our ability to pay these rewards has proven to be a valuable tool for the United States Government to promote accountability for the worst crimes known to humankind, by generating valuable tips that enable authorities to track down the world’s most notorious fugitives from justice.

In the past two years alone, we’ve made 14 payments at an average of about 400,000 per person, with the largest payment being $2 million. The actual amount depends on a range of factors, including the risk, the informant, the value of the information, and the level of the alleged perpetrator. To date, with the assistance of the War Crimes Reward Programs, no indictee remains at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 161 persons were charged; all of them have been brought to justice. In addition, out of the 92 individuals indicted by the Rwanda tribunal, only nine have yet to be apprehended. And these nine individuals are still subject to rewards of up to 5 million for information leading to their capture.

This program has sent a strong message to those committing atrocities that the deeds that they have done, for those deeds, they will have to answer in court. Nevertheless, while the program has achieved great success with these three tribunals, it risks becoming obsolete as they gain custody of their last remaining fugitives. To that end, we began to advocate for an expansion of the program to bolster our ongoing efforts to bring other alleged war criminals to justice. In early 2012, Congressman Edward Royce, who then headed a subcommittee and now chairs the full House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Secretary Kerry, who chaired Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate and now, of course, heads our Department, introduced bipartisan legislation to expand and modernize this program. The bill passed both houses unanimously with final legislative approval on January 1st, 2013. On January 15th, 2013, President Obama signed the legislation into U.S. law.

Under this expanded program, the Secretary of State, after interagency consultation and on notice to Congress, may designate individuals for whom rewards may be offered for information leading to their arrest, transfer, or conviction. The designated individuals must be foreign nationals accused by any international tribunal, including mixed or hybrid courts, for crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes. This includes the International Criminal Court, but also new mixed courts that may be established in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo or for Syria.

To that end, the expanded program now targets the alleged perpetrators of the worst atrocities, some of whom have evaded justice for more than a decade. The LRA is one of the world’s most brutal armed groups and has survived for over 20 years by abducting women and children and forcing them to serve as porters, sex slaves, and fighters. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and other top LRA leaders on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. For too long, the DRC has been plagued by conflict, displacement and insecurity. Innocent civilians have suffered continued atrocities at the hands of armed groups such as the FDLR and M23 that support themselves by pillage of the population and exploitation of precious minerals.

Last April, President Obama, speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and launching our Atrocity Prevention Initiative, warned major criminals everywhere to be on notice: We will not relent in bringing you to justice. Today, we’re announcing that we will provide the means to help achieve their arrest, transfer, and conviction.

Thank you, and I’ll now field questions.

MS. NULAND: We will take a few questions if anybody has any. Questions at all for Ambassador Rapp? (No response.) All right. So crystal-clear this briefing, that’s (inaudible). (Laughter.) Let me just take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Rapp and --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don’t know, Ambassador, if this is something you can --

MS. NULAND: Okay. Elise has a question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I don’t know if this --

MS. NULAND: Ms. Labott, CNN. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sorry, hi. I don’t know if this is something you can specifically talk about, but the U.S. has been engaged in efforts to try and track down Joseph Kony, so I’m wondering where those efforts stand. Do you feel that you have a good handle on where he is? There was some talk under Secretary Clinton about even using drone technology to find him.

AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, I want to yield to Don on that, but I do want to say that this program, this expansion, was strongly supported by the Pentagon and by those involved in that effort, and they see this reward as something that could provide key intelligence about the location of Kony and the others. But as to the events of the last few days in the CAR and the effect of that, let me yield to Assistant Secretary Yamamoto.

MR. YAMAMOTO: Just a couple of comments, is the United States remains very committed to the counter-LRA program, along with our partners. And of course, right now is – even though we’ve taken a pause because of the developments in Bangui and how the situation there is unfolding – is remain committed. And we’re going to use all facilities and all technology at our hands to try to find and locate Kony and his group.

MS. NULAND: Other questions?

QUESTION: Actually, I do have --

MS. NULAND: Yes, Lalit.

QUESTION: On the programs in general, majority of these terrorist leaders under this Rewards for Justice Program are from the Af-Pak region, and despite you bringing an offer of 25 million or 10 million, 5 million dollars, nothing has come through. Can you give us a sense of what kind of information you’re getting from the region, or you have not been able any – to have any success in this region to get any information from these leaders?

AMBASSADOR RAPP: Well, and understand, in the Department, we have three rewards programs, one on the counterterrorism area that’s made offers, and I believe it’s been productive. But that particular program is administered through our Diplomatic Security Bureau. And then we also have a program for what was narcotics solely, but under this legislation will include transnational organized crime. And that’s administered by the Office of Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

So I can’t – we’ll be glad to follow up on that question that – but in terms of the specific CT program and the offer for individuals in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, I think that’s something that needs to be directed to that program. Here today we’re talking about war crimes, which are situations where international or internationalized courts have sought people for atrocity crimes, for crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes. And we can offer rewards and pay those. And as we’ve noted here, it has been successful and we’ve been able just during my tenure to make 14 payments and to help bring some of the last fugitives to justice at the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals.


QUESTION: Yes, my name is Said Arikat from Al Quds daily newspaper. There is a newly formed rapid deployment force for North Africa. Will it be involved in any of this effort in pursuit of these war crimes?

MR. YAMAMOTO: Yeah, I think that I would defer to the Africa Command and Department of Defense on the precise rationale and reasons and goals and objectives of the specialized force. But I think right now is how we’re going after, let’s say, the LRA and others. It remains a very committed approach, interagency, Department of Defense, State Department, and of course our regional partners, particularly Uganda.

MS. NULAND: Good. Any other questions? (No response.) Thank you all very much. We would refer you also to the Secretary’s blog post on Huffington Post today on this same subject. Thank you very much, Ambassador Rapp and Mr. Yamamoto.

AMBASSADOR RAPP: Thank you very much, Toria.

Source: Department of State