This bill would clarify that the State Dept. is authorized use its War Crimes Rewards Program to obtain information leading to the arrest or conviction of individuals suspected of committing war crimes who haven’t been charged by an international tribunal. The State Dept. would be permitted to offer rewards for crimes that would be prosecuted under the laws and statutes of the U.S. and other countries. The program offers cash awards of up to $5 million, but it is unclear whether current law allows it to be used to target individuals who haven’t been charged with war crimes by an international tribunal. Rewards can only be paid for information related to specific individuals designated by the State Dept.
What is House Bill H.R. 1819?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 1819
In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and original cosponsor Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to clarify that rewards can be offered for war crimes prosecutions that take place under domestic law, as current law appears to confine their use to prosecutions before an international tribunal:
“The War Crimes Rewards Expansion Act would clarify this ambiguity, ensuring that the WCRP can be used for prosecutions that take place under domestic law — including U.S. law or the law of another country — in addition to the laws of international tribunals. This clarification will build on the WCRP’s success, providing the State Department with clear authority to use rewards for a wider range of prosecutions. Under certain circumstances, atrocities can be prosecuted with the greatest impact in national courts, within the societies in which the crimes occurred. Doing so can help ensure the parties understand the law, witnesses have access to the trials, and public awareness is maximized.”
After this bill passed the House in the 115th Congress, Rep. Foxx said:
“A number of courts and tribunals around the world have made it their mission to investigate and convict terrorists and perpetrators of human rights abuses. Unfortunately due to certain limitations, not all courts are equally equipped to accomplish this task. Each year, the War Crimes Rewards Program – run by the State Department – designates financial incentives to individuals in exchange for information regarding the whereabouts of fugitives from international criminal tribunals. While this program has been successful, I have fought to strengthen our domestic courts in the fight against those who commit crimes of atrocity, such as ISIS. In order to bring these fugitive terrorists to justice, we must arm domestic courts with the ability to prosecute these criminals under the United States’ banner of justice, rather than relying solely on international tribunals. This legislation is critical to ensuring that the members of our justice community at home are fully prepared to take on ISIS fugitives, and will hopefully protect future victims from ISIS genocide and the world’s worst human-rights abusers.”
This bill has five bipartisan cosponsors, including three Democrats and two Republicans, in the 116th Congress.
Last Congress, this bill passed the House unanimously with the support of seven bipartisan cosponsors, including four Republicans and three Democrats. However, it didn't receive a Senate vote and therefore didn't become law last Congress.
- Sponsoring Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) Press Release (115th Congress)
- House Foreign Affairs Committee Press Release (115th Congress)
- Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) Letter (115th Congress)
- CBO Cost Estimate (115th Congress)
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock)
War Crimes Rewards Expansion Act
To amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to provide for rewards for the arrest or conviction of certain foreign nationals who have committed genocide or war crimes, and for other purposes.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
Committee on Foreign Relations
- senate Committees
- The house has not voted
Committee on Foreign AffairsIntroducedMarch 18th, 2019
- house Committees