Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions


On 14 January 2007, the Third Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions enters into force, six months after the two first countries ratified it. This completes the process of establishing an additional emblem for use by Governments and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Key facts about the Protocol.

Red crystal: the "emblem Protocol" comes into force

The coming into force of this Protocol - and with it the additional emblem of the red crystal - is considered a concrete sign of the predominance of humanitarian principles over any other considerations governing the mission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement.  

 The possibility of using the red crystal will make it easier for national societies who do not wish to use the red cross or the red crescent emblems to be recognized and admitted to the Movement. This consolidates the Movement's universality.  

 The Protocol provides for new flexibility, allowing national societies to include a combination of emblems recognized by the Geneva Conventions inside the red crystal for their identification.  

 Under international law, the red crystal offers the same protection as the red cross and the red crescent when marking military medical personnel, establishments and transport; the staff of national societies; staff, vehicles and structures of the ICRC and the International Federation. (Existing law - Additional Protocol I of 1977 - also allows use of the emblem by certain civilian medical establishments.)  

 The ICRC and the International Federation are allowed to use the red crystal in exceptional circumstances, if they consider it necessary for their work; but they will not change their present emblems or names.  

 The longer-term challenge is now to secure the same world-wide recognition and respect for the red crystal as given to the red cross and the red crescent. This will facilitate access by humanitarian workers to victims of conflict and other crises, in particular in situations where the use of an emblem devoid of any perceived political, religious, cultural and connotations may be an advantage.  


Background to the new emblem 

  • As of 14 January 2007, AP III had been signed by 84 States and ratified by nine. The full list of signatures and ratifications is on the Swiss Foreign Ministry website.
  • AP III was adopted by a large majority of the participants at a diplomatic conference held in Geneva in December 2005, convened by Switzerland and attended by most of the States party to the Geneva Conventions.
  • The Statutes of the International RCRC Movement were amended, to incorporate the red crystal and all other relevant rules of AP III, at the Movement's 29th International Conference in June 2006, attended by States party to the GC and RCRC societies, the ICRC and the International Federation.
  • Full text of the Third Additional Protocol
  • Read also press release welcoming the coming into force of AP III



© ICRC / Thierry Gassmann/ emb-e-00021

Related sections