April 10, 2007 / 12:16 AM / 12 years ago

U.N. genocide exhibit delayed after Turkey objects

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. exhibit on the 13th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide has been delayed after Turkish objections to a mention of the killing of Armenians in Turkey during World War One, organizers said on Monday.

Skulls of people killed during Rwanda's 1994 genocide at the Murambi genocide memorial, April 7, 2007. REUTERS/Arthur Asiimwe

The photo and text exhibit, organized in part by the British-based Aegis Trust, was scheduled to be opened on Monday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

But Turkey objected to a sentence in the text, which showed how the Armenian killings contributed to the creation of the term genocide, according to James Smith, chief executive of Aegis, whose mission is to prevent genocide.

It said: “Following World War One, during which 1 million Armenians were murdered in Turkey, Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin urged the League of Nations to recognize crimes of barbarity as international crimes,” Smith said.

Organizers said they were informed of the delay by the U.N. Department of Public Information, which had initially approved the exhibit in the visitors’ lobby. The secretary-general’s office then consented to the postponement.

U.N. officials confirmed that objections by Turkey and others, which they did not mention, were responsible for the delay. One staff member said an official in the Department of Public Information had not sent the text to other divisions for fact-checking.

“The exhibition has been postponed until the regular review process is completed,” U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.

David Browan, communications director for Aegis, told Reuters that Armenian diplomats had agreed to the removal of the words “in Turkey,” which was acceptable to his group. But he said, “We understand that was not acceptable to the U.N.”

Some 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of Ottoman Turks, according to historians. Turkey denies any systematic genocide, saying large numbers of both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks died in a partisan conflict raging at that time.

Aegis, however, is resisting removing references to the Armenian killings in connection with the exhibit on Rwanda, where at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutus. The murders began on April 6, 1994.

The exhibit also mentions the Nazi extermination of Jews in World War Two and has passing references to Cambodia’s killing fields and crimes in Bosnia, East Timor and Sudan.

But a U.N. official insisted the exhibit would take place. “We are committed to it. It is a very important issue,” said Manoel de Almeida e Silva, an official in the strategic communications division.

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