UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The African Union on Friday backed a U.N. inquiry call for the Security Council to consider creating a tribunal to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides in Central African Republic's ethnic and religious violence.
A preliminary report by a commission of inquiry - submitted to the Security Council last week - found "that ample evidence exists to prove that individuals from both sides of the conflict perpetuated serious breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity as well as war crimes."
U.N. officials have warned that the conflict between Muslims and Christians could spiral into genocide, although the inquiry said "it is premature to talk of an international armed conflict, of genocide or ethnic cleansing."
The commission was established in January by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the request of the Security Council.
The mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in Central African Republic more than a year ago, perpetrating abuses on the majority Christian population that triggered waves of revenge attacks, leading to thousands of deaths and forcing about a million people to flee their homes.
Uganda's Ambassador to the African Union Mull Sebujja Katende, chair of the African Union Peace and Security Council for June, backed the inquiry's call for accountability in Central African Republic, a resource-rich former French colony.
"A principle within the African Union is that whatever happens anywhere, there should be no killings of innocent people. And that if that happens, whoever does it should be accountable. That is a very strong principle," said Katende.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations after a meeting between the AU Peace and Security Council and the U.N. council, Katende said African peacekeepers in Central African Republic were looking out for "any people who abuse human rights."
The U.N. inquiry "prays the Security Council should consider the possibility of putting into place a jurisdiction which will to start investigate and prepare the prosecution suspects of violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws as well as war crimes who are already identifiable."
The violence has continued in Central African Republic despite the presence of 2,000 French troops and some 5,600 African Union forces. In April, the U.N. Security Council authorized a U.N. peacekeeping force of up to 10,000 troops and 1,800 police, which is due to assume authority in September.
"If the international community does not react with speed and determination by sending more peace keeping forces to CAR, we may soon face a situation which will rapidly deteriorate and bring about genocide and ethnic cleansing," the inquiry said.