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Commentary - Identity card for permanent civilian medical and religious personnel
    [p.1153] Annex I, Article 1 -- Identity card for permanent civilian medical and religious personnel


    [p.1154] General remarks

    3968 The characteristics of this identity card are similar to those of the card for military medical and religious personnel governed by Article 40 of the first Convention but, following Committee II's discussion of Article 18 ' (Identification) ' of the Protocol, they are not compulsory. (1) It was considered advisable to avoid any rigid standardization of the items to be included in this document intended for civilians, since each country has its own population registration methods and its own procedures for keeping files on civilians and their identity documents. At present there are no international standards in this sphere. The International Standardization Organization (ISO) would be the competent body to study international standards for identity documents. Some of its Technical Committees have drawn up codes for the representation of country names, as well as systems or documents relating to the romanization of Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic and Hebrew characters. (2)

    3969 Whatever national standards exist for identity documents, the characteristics of the identity card proposed in paragraph 1 enable the civilian and military authorities of the Parties to the conflict to check the holder's identity and entitlement to wear the distinctive emblem. The colour of the identity card is not specified; the Technical Sub-Committee of Committee II suggested that it should be white, this making it easier to represent the red distinctive emblem on a white ground.

    3970 Current developments in computer information processing systems make it possible to produce very small identity cards for military use ("electronic dog tags"). Neither this type of identity card, nor the type used for bank cards or to [p.1155] restrict access to high-security areas, nor again the type of identity card which is based on biometric techniques, can replace the identity card provided for in the Conventions and the Protocol, (3) which can be manufactured without recourse to sophisticated techniques and contains information comprehensible to everybody, everywhere.

    3971 Article 1 does not provide for an identity disc to be worn by permanent civilian medical and religious personnel. However, it would be advisable to provide such personnel with a disc similar to that intended for military personnel and referred to in Articles 16 and 40 of the first Convention. This precaution should be taken, at least in the areas mentioned in Article 18 ' (Identification), ' paragraph 3, of the Protocol.

    Paragraph 1

    3972 The manufacture of identity cards and discs should be studied and, if possible, prepared in peacetime; the production of these documents should on no account be improvised once a conflict has started. (4)

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (a)

    3973 The distinctive emblem which should appear on the identity card is the red cross or red crescent, models for which are given in Figure 2 of Annex I; the red lion and sun which also appears in figure 2 is no longer used and has been replaced in Iran since 1980 by the red crescent. (5)

    3974 The two red crosses appearing at the top of the model identity card in figure 1 are not compulsory. A single red cross or red crescent would suffice and it could be placed anywhere on the card. The national emblem may also be represented, together with the name of the country. If the identity card is white, the distinctive emblem may be stamped or printed on it in red: the emblem must be red on a white ground.

    3975 So that the identity card may easily be carried in the pocket, the Technical Sub-Committee suggested that the A7 format be used, so as to produce a rectangular 74 x 1,05 mm card printed recto-verso. Under ISO international [p.1156] standards, the A7 format is equal to one-eighth of the 297 x 210 mm A4 format; A4 paper is commonly used for writing and typing. (6)

    3976 The A7 format identity card may be printed either upright or sideways and is designed to receive a photograph measuring at least 55 x 40 mm.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (b)

    3977 By the term "as durable as practicable", the Technical Sub-Committee meant that the card should be crease-resistant, water-resistant and dirt-resistant. These criteria are met by plastified paper or paperboard and by the stiff plastic materials used to make badges and bank credit cards. Finally, the identity card may be placed in a transparent, hermetically sealed holder or, failing that, in any type of protective covering.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (c)

    3978 In some countries the identity cards issued to civilians are bilingual or trilingual, but in many other countries they are monolingual. The model in figure 1 provides enough space to print the various items in two languages; in that case, care should be taken to ensure that the text concerning protection is prominently displayed.

    3979 To facilitate the translation of the information on the identity card into a language other than the national language, the items could be numbered, starting with 1 for the name of the country and issuing authority. (7) The list of items numbered from 1 to 16 could then be translated into other languages and exchanged for the corresponding list of the other Party to the conflict, which could be reproduced and distributed as appropriate.

    3980 The official language referred to in this sub-paragraph is that recognized as official State language. This official or national language may therefore not be [p.1157] among those used for the authentic texts referred to in Article 102 of the Protocol ' (Authentic texts). ' Furthermore, there may be more than one national or official language in a given country.

    3981 It is advisable for the other languages spoken in the national territory to be used, together with the official language, for drawing up the identity card. (8) When it is possible to do so, there may be some advantage in also using an international language for the identity card.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (d)

    3982 Usage regarding family and first names or other constituent parts of the name varies from country to country and sometimes even inside the same country. Consequently, after lengthy discussions, Committee II decided that the first name should not appear on the identity card as a separate item. Thus the competent authorities can give the name customarily used in the country to identify a person, together with the first name(s) if appropriate. That customary name should be entered first and perhaps even underlined in order to make it clear that it identifies the person. The habitual first name should be entered immediately after the name. (9)

    3983 The date of birth, which is an important means of identification, may in some countries not be known for a large number of people. In such cases, the person's age may be established by a medical commission which issues a certificate stating the presumed age, from which the year of birth may be deduced. If the exact date of birth is unknown, the person's age, at least in approximate terms, should be entered on the identity card.

    3984 One of the delegates in the Technical Sub-Committee observed that complications might arise from the fact that not all countries have he same calendar. In fact, the differences between the various calendars in use are known and, if necessary, the competent services could publish any information required for the conversion of dates.

    3985 As a general rule, civilians are not given an identity number in peacetime; however, if such a number is assigned to permanent civilian medical and religious personnel in time of armed conflict, it could usefully be entered on the card in order to facilitate identification. In that case, the same number should also appear on the identity disc, if any, issued to such civilian personnel.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (e)

    3986 The card must indicate the holder's medical or religious status. Both categories of personnel are mentioned in the specimen card reproduced in figure 1, and all that has to be done is to strike out the term which does not apply.

    [p.1158] 3987 It would also be desirable to give a precise indication of the holder's capacity by mentioning his profession: surgeon, anaesthetist, doctor, nurse, ambulance driver etc.

    3988 In the case of a minister of religion, additional information such as denomination, capacity -- for example, hospital chaplain -- or possible attachment to a relief organization could be helpful for purposes of identification.

    3989 In certifying clearly the holder's status, the identity card complies with the provision of Article 18 ' (Identification), ' paragraph 3, of the Protocol.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (f)

    3990 In the case of permanent civilian personnel, there should be no difficulty in affixing the holder's photograph to the identity card. The photograph is an essential feature of all identity documents and is used in all countries.

    3991 The holder's signature must appear on the identity card, as evidence that he recognizes the accuracy of the description given therein of his status. The signature is also an aid to identification, as is the thumbprint which may either replace or accompany the signature. In order to avoid confusion, it may be advisable for the holder to sign the back of the photograph as well.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (g)

    3992 The stamp and signature of the competent authority are essential as evidence of the identity card's validity. In the model in figure 1, the place for "signature of issuing authority" is on the front side whereas the space for the stamp is on the back. This arrangement is not compulsory; the authority's signature and stamp could equally well be in the same place.

    3993 Article 1 does not state whether the identity card should bear a number; nevertheless, the specimen in figure 1 has a space for "No. of card". This is a suggestion in keeping with the provisions of Article 40 of the first Convention (Identification of medical and religious personnel) and the specimen military identity card annexed to that Convention.

    ' Sub-paragraph ' (h)

    3994 The requirement that the identity card for permanent civilian medical and religious personnel should state the date of issue and expiry is consistent with the widespread practice of making civilian identity documents renewable periodically. Compulsory renewal enable changes in the holder's physical appearance, duties etc. to be taken into account.

    3995 If necessary, the extension of the card's validity may be certified and signed by the competent authority on the card itself, in the space which the specimen in figure 1 provides for "Other distinguishing marks or information".

    [p.1159] Paragraph 2

    3996 The provisions of this paragraph, like those of the second paragraph of Article 40 of the first Convention, are compulsory. The requirement that the identity card for permanent civilian medical and religious personnel must be uniform throughout the national territory is an essential one, since the card is not necessarily issued in the place where the protected person usually pursues his professional activities in peacetime. Since communications may break down, identity cards which may have been issued anywhere on the national territory can only be controlled effectively if they all follow a standard pattern.

    3997 The issuing authority which maintains control of the cards issued to protected civilian personnel will be in touch with the professional bodies concerned, the personnel services of medical establishments, civilian and religious administrative bodies and National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies. Each country, taking into account its special situation, will designate the authority which is to be in charge of keeping the files and duplicate copies of cards issued, replacing lost cards, extending or updating cards etc. (10)

    3998 When the Parties to the Conflict transmit specimen identity cards to each other, they should attach a translation into the adverse Party's national language of the card's particulars.

    Paragraph 3

    3999 The stipulation that permanent civilian medical and religious personnel may in no circumstances be deprived of their identity cards is designed to protect such personnel against arbitrary decisions which might jeopardize their humanitarian activity. This is how the prohibition should be interpreted. Obviously, if the holder of such an identity card were to be found guilty of violating his humanitarian mission or flouting medical ethics, he would lose his entitlement to the card. Nevertheless, he should not be completely deprived of an identity document.

    4000 Paragraph 3 bears a resemblance to the fourth paragraph of Article 40 of the first Convention, which states that protected personnel may not be deprived of the right to wear the distinctive emblems (armlet). The same applies to civilian personnel issued with identity cards entitling them to respect and protection.

    ' Ph.E. '


    NOTES (1) [(1) p.1154] O.R. XI, p. 166, CDDH/II /SR.18, para. 8;

    (2) [(2) p.1154] Standards ISO R9-68, ISO 233-1984, ISO 259-1984, ISO R843-1968, ISO 7098-1982, ISO 3166, ISO 216-1975;

    (3) [(3) p.1155] Biometry: "biology from a statistical point of view, especially with reference to problems of variation" (Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary). It enables fingerprint patterns and the shape of faces and hands, etc. to be identified;

    (4) [(4) p.1155] The Conventions and their Additional Protocols do not propose a model identity disc. Some are oval in shape, measuring about 6 cm lengthwise and 4 cm across and are made of 1 mm stainless steel. They are partially perforated along the short axis so that they can be broken into two, each half being engraved with the particulars stipulated in Article 16 of the First Convention. Two holes are pierced at each end of the long axis; the disc may then be hung round the neck on a 60 cm stainless steel chain;

    (5) [(5) p.1155] The delegate of Israel recalled that in his country the red shield of David (six-branched star) was used as a distinctive emblem. Patterns of the emblems may be found in: Ph. Eberlin, ' Protective Signs, ' Geneva, 1983;

    (6) [(6) p.1156] For comparison, the model identity cards annexed to the Conventions have the following sizes: First and Second Conventions, 75 x 100 mm model; Third Convention, 130 x 100 mm actual size;

    (7) [(7) p.1156] The items of the model in Figure 1 could be numbered as follows:
    1 -- Name of the country and authority issuing this card
    2 -- Identity card for permanent/temporary civilian medical/religious personnel
    3 -- Name
    4 -- Date of birth (or age)
    5 -- Identity No. (if any)
    6 -- The holder of this card... (text in full)
    7 -- Date of issue
    8 -- No. of card... Signature of issuing authority
    9 -- Date of expiry
    10 --Height;
    11 --Eyes;
    12 --Hair;
    13 --Other distinguishing marks or information
    14 --Photo of holder
    15 --Stamp
    16 --Signature of holder or thumbprint or both;

    (8) [(8) p.1157] O.R. XII, p. 189, CDDH/11/SR.72, paras. 18-20;

    (9) [(9) p.1157] Ibid., p. 180, CDDH/11/SR.71, paras. 34-36; pp. 183-184, paras. 64-80;

    (10) [(10) p.1159] Cf. ' Commentary I ', Art. 40;