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Commentary - International distinctive sign
    [p.1289] Annex I, Article 15 -- International distinctive sign


    [p.1290] General remarks

    4304 The expert meeting convened by the ICRC in January 1973 to study the question of the distinctive sign of civil defence considered the following aspects:

    -- existing international signs;
    -- national civil defence emblems existing in various countries;
    -- signs used in the member countries of the International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO);
    -- proposals by ICDO;
    -- visibility tests carried out by the ICRC on the red cross sign;
    -- choice of colours and a simple geometric design.

    4305 After considering the documentation made available to the group, it was decided that the sign selected should be easily distinguishable from existing signs. Furthermore;

    [p.1291]
    -- the sign should be easily recognizable from a fair distance;
    -- the national and international signs should not be combined or associated;
    -- the design should be simple and limited to two colours.

    4306 On the basis of the above considerations, some fifty suggested designs were examined by the specialists, who selected two proposals for submission to the Diplomatic Conference:

    -- a light blue equilateral triangle on a light orange ground;
    -- two or more light blue vertical and parallel stripes on a light orange ground.

    4307 The group recommended that:

    -- no specifications should be laid down concerning the nature of the background, which could be an armlet or tabard, the wall of a building etc.;
    -- one of the angles of the triangle should be pointed vertically upwards;
    -- no angle of the triangle should touch the edge of the background.

    4308 Both the signs proposed by the group of experts are reproduced in Article 15 of the ICRC's draft Annex I. At the first session of the Conference, the Technical Sub-Committee expressed its preference for the triangle. Commenting on the two designs under consideration, the representative of the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities suggested the deletion of the adjective "light" before the words "orange" and "blue". (1)

    4309 At the third session of the Conference, the observer for ICDO expressed the view that a sign consisting of two red stripes on a yellow ground would be more effective than a blue triangle on a orange ground. After discussion, the Sub-Committee nevertheless decided to adopt the blue triangle on an orange ground, the final adoption of Chapter V (' Civil defence ') of Annex I being dependent upon the conclusions reached by Committee II concerning the civil defence provisions.

    4310 As shown in the supplement to its report, Working Group A of Committee II considered the provisions relating to civil defence at the fourth session and also expressed its preference for the blue triangle on an orange ground. (2)

    4311 In addition to the distinctive sign, Article 66 ' (Identification), ' paragraph 5, authorizes the use of distinctive signals for civil defence identification purposes, subject to agreement between the Parties to the conflict.

    4312 The commentary on Article 66 ' (Identification) ' explains why Annex I contains no rules in respect of such distinctive signals. If the civil defence organization runs a medical service for evacuating the wounded, the sick or the shipwrecked, its medical transports are entitled to the same protection as other medical services; in other words, they can use the distinctive signals set aside for the exclusive use of medical services. (3) These signals are described in Chapter III of Annex I.

    4313 The other means of transport used by civil defence services may be marked with the visual international distinctive sign, namely, the blue equilateral triangle [p.1292] on an orange ground. Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent such means of transport -- aircraft or ships, for example -- from resorting to the recognized international procedures used by civil vessels and aircraft in peacetime to identify themselves by radio and radar. The maritime and aeronautical radiocommunications governed by the Radio Regulations on the one hand and Volumes I and II of Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention of 7 December 1944) on the other (4) may be used by the Parties to the conflict for establishing contact with a view to concluding the agreement referred to in paragraph 5 of Article 66 ' (Identification). '

    4314 Such agreements in respect of any aircraft or ships used by civil defence services, for example to evacuate civilians from a threatened area, could be based on the following texts:

    -- IMO, International Code of Signals, Chapter XIV;
    -- ITU, Radio Regulations, Article 40, Section II; Resolution No. 18 of the Radio Regulations;
    -- ICAO, Annex 10, Volume II, Chapter 5, sections 5.3, 5.3.3.4-5.3.3.5.1.

    4315 These provisions contain standard instructions for the use of technical identification and signalling methods which may be adapted to meet the requirements of civil defence services with a view to concluding the required agreement without delay.

    4316 Quite apart from evacuation of the civilian population, civil defence organizations may need to use various means of transport for the performance of the tasks listed in Article 61 ' (Definitions and scope): '

    -- ships and other craft for use in the event of floods, tidal waves or rescue at sea;
    -- aircraft to fight forest fires;
    -- intervention in the event of natural disaster, all types of pollution, nuclear accidents etc.

    4317 Even in time of armed conflict, steps should be taken to ensure a minimum of safety for such operations. Distinctive signals may prove essential for ships and aircraft used by civil defence services for
    such purposes.

    Paragraph 1

    4318 Articles 3 ' (Shape and nature) ' and 4 (Use) of Annex I, together with their commentary, apply mutatis mutandis to this article. As to the blue and orange colours, the ICRC visibility tests demonstrated that dark colours make the sign easier to identify from a distance. The trichromatic co-ordinates of the blue and orange colours have yet to be specified and this should be done, for information only, when Annex I is revised.

    [p.1293] Paragraph 2

    4319 The purpose of the recommendations in sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) is to standardize the sign's aspect. The government experts recommended that, if the orange background is a square or rectangle,
    the side of the triangle opposite the angle pointing vertically upwards should be parallel to one of the sides of the background.

    Paragraph 3

    4320 The commentary on Articles 3 ' (Shape and nature) ' and 4 ' (Use) ' (5) of Annex I applies also to the international distinctive sign of civil defence. Infrared visibility tests of the blue sign on an orange ground have shown that these two colours provide the dark-on-pale contrast required to distinguish the form of the sign.

    ' Ph. E. '


    NOTES (1) [(1) p.1291] O.R. XIII, p. 26, CDDH/49/Rev.1, para. 26; p. 47 (Chapter V, Art. 15);

    (2) [(2) p.1291] Ibid., pp. 439-440, CDDH/II/439/Add.1;

    (3) [(3) p.1291] Cf. commentary Art. 66, para. 5, supra, p. 784;

    (4) [(4) p.1292] ITU, Radio Regulations, revised edition of 1985. ICAO, International Standards, Recommended Practices and Procedures for Air Navigation Services: Aeronautical Telecommunications, Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, Volumes I and II;

    (5) [(5) p.1293] Supra, p. 1173;