THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court prosecutor sought an arrest warrant Friday for Sudan's defense minister on crimes against humanity and war crimes charges for allegedly helping orchestrate atrocities in Darfur.
The request brings to three the number of senior Sudanese leaders — including President Omar al-Bashir — accused of crimes in Darfur.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a filing to judges that Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein is among those who "bear greatest criminal responsibility" for atrocities in the Sudanese region from August 2003 to March 2004.
At the time, Hussein was interior minister and the Sudan government's special representative in Darfur.
He is accused of overseeing a state-sponsored plan to attack villages in western Darfur. Prosecutors say government troops would surround the villages, air force planes would bomb them and then soldiers, including janjaweed militia fighters, would descend on the ruins, raping and killing those who survived the initial aerial onslaught.
A panel of judges will study evidence filed by Moreno-Ocampo before deciding whether to issue a warrant.
The court already has indicted Bashir on genocide charges along with another of his government ministers and a commander of the janjaweed militia for their alleged roles in widespread attacks on civilians in Darfur.
None of those suspects has been arrested by the court, which has no police force, and Bashir has refused to surrender himself or anybody else to the court.
Since his indictment, Bashir has repeatedly traveled to friendly nations without being arrested.
Moreno-Ocampo said he made public the arrest warrant request for Hussein to put the case back in the spotlight.
In a statement, his office said the request aims "to encourage further public focus on government of the Sudan policy and actions, and promote cooperation in taking action to arrest Mr. Hussein and the three other individuals subject to ICC warrants."
Prosecutors also have indicted two rebels for allegedly leading an attack on an African Union peacekeeper compound in Darfur. Judges dismissed similar charges against another rebel for lack of evidence. All three of the rebels surrendered voluntarily to the Hague-based court last year.
Darfur was plunged into turmoil in 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, whom they accused of discrimination.
The Khartoum government is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians — a charge the government denies. The UN estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the conflict.