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Use of visual signalling for identification of medical transports protected under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and under the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts (Protocol I)

    The Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts, Geneva, 1974-1977,

    Considering that :

    (a) in order to avoid attacks upon them there is a need for the improved visual identification of medical transports,

    (b) this Conference has agreed to the use of a flashing blue light as a means of visual identification to be employed only by aircraft exclusively engaged in medical transport,

    (c) by special agreement, Parties to a conflict may reserve the use of a flashing blue light for the identification of medical vehicles and medical ships and craft, but, in the absence of such agreement, the use of such signals for other vehicles or ships is not prohibited;

    (d) in addition to the distinctive emblem and the flashing blue light, other means of visual identification, such as signal flags and combinations of flares, may be used eventually to identify medical transports,

    (e) the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization is the most appropriate international body to designate and promulgate visual signals to be employed within the maritime environment,


    Having noted that, though the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 recognize the use of the distinctive emblem to be flown by hospital ships and medical craft, this use is not reflected in relevant documents of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization,

    1. Requests the President of the Conference to transmit to the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization this resolution, together with the documents of this Conference, inviting that Organization to :

    (a) consider introduction into the appropriate documents, such as the International Code of Signals, the flashing blue light as described in Article 6 of Chapter III of the Regulations contained in Annex I to Protocol I;

    (b) provide for recognition of the distinctive emblem in the appropriate documents (see Article 3 of Chapter II of the said Regulations);

    (c) consider the establishment both of unique flag signals and of a flare combination, such as white-red-white, which might be used for additional or alternative visual identification of medical transports;

    2. Urges the Governments invited to this Conference to lend their full co-operation to this endeavour in the consultative processes of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization.

    Fifty-fourth plenary meeting 7 June 1977


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