John Kerry, Bounty Hunter?

Senator John Kerry, if and when he becomes the next Secretary of State, will now be able to offer a reward to those who help capture the world's worst human rights violators.

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Dec. 3, 2012.

On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Enhanced State Department Rewards Program, the last bill Senator John Kerry is expected to sponsor during his Senate career. The law will be useful in Kerry’s next job–Secretary of State–as it will let the State Department place bounties on war criminals.

“This powerful new tool can be used to help bring to justice perpetrators of the worst crimes known to human kind,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement on the bill signing. “All of these individuals face charges before international criminal tribunals for horrific acts, including attacks on civilians, murder, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and rape.”

State’s rewards program has been around for years, but it has mostly been used to deal with narcotics traffickers and terror suspects. Until now, State could not have put a bounty out for a suspected war criminal like Joseph Kony. Will the act lead to Kony’s arrest? No one collected on Osama bin Laden’s bounty, but the privatization of hunting war criminals has had some success in recent years.

In many ways, the program is a win-win for the U.S., leery of committing troops to chase down highly sought after war criminals. The new bounties are expected to be especially effective in Africa with rebels such as Kony and other members of the Lord’s Resistance Army wanted by the International Criminal Court, certain commanders of Congolese rebel group the March 23 Movement, and the leaders of the Rwandese Democratic Forces for the Liberation.

At a Dec. 21 press release hailing Senate passage of the bill, Kerry said the law “will promote the leads and tips needed to hobble transnational organized crime, the movement of international criminals, and go right after horrific people like Joseph Kony, who have destabilized entire regions, and transnational criminal organizations that pose threats not only abroad, but right in our own back yard.”

Kerry has said he would pursue an aggressive foreign policy agenda. In one area, at least, he’s written himself a check to do it.