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Colombia: ICRC deplores improper use of red cross emblem

06-08-2008 News Release 08/139

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today expressed serious concern over what appears to have been a deliberate misuse of the red cross emblem during the operation to free 15 hostages that was carried out on 2 July.

Video footage aired this week on Colombian television reveals that a member of the army team involved was wearing a tabard marked with the red cross emblem before the operation had even begun, suggesting intentional misuse.

" If authenticated, these images would clearly establish an improper use of the red cross emblem, which we deplore, " said the ICRC's deputy director of operations, Dominik Stillhart. The use of the red cross, red crescent and red crystal emblems is governed by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. These emblems may not be used by bodies or persons not entitled to do so under international humanitarian law. " We are in contact with the Colombian authorities to ask for further clarifications as to exactly what happened, " said Stillhart.

Complete and total respect for the red cross emblem is essential if the ICRC is to be able to bring assistance and protection to the people worst affected by armed conflicts and other situations of violence. As a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization, the ICRC depends on the trust of all the parties to the conflict to be able to carry out its humanitarian work.

  For further information, please contact:
  Christophe Beney, ICRC Bogotá, tel: +57 1 313 86 30
  Carlos Ríos, ICRC Bogotá, tel: +57 311 4 91 07 75
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 32 17