Red cross and red crescent emblems in Iraq: a clarification
Following the attack on the headquarters of the United Nations in Baghdad on 19 August, some media have incorrectly reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been involved in rescuing the wounded. In fact, personnel and vehicles displaying the red cross and red crescent emblems did take part in the rescue effort. However, they were not part of the ICRC or the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Military and civilian medical units authorized by the competent authorities are entitled to use the red cross and red crescent emblems. For the ICRC it is vital that the difference between the use of these emblems by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement on the one hand, and military or other civilian medical services on the other, is clearly understood. Although the same emblems may be used, the ICRC remains completely independent of any military force or any other organization in such situations as Iraq.Military medical services
The red cross and red crescent emblems are protective signs. Their use is determined by the Geneva Conventions. Under international humanitarian law, the medical services of armed forces and civilian medical units authorized by the competent authorities, are entitled to use the red cross or red crescent on a white background to identify their personnel, vehicles, aircraft and facilities (such as hospitals and clinics). The purpose is to identify medical personnel, vehicles and other facilities to the warring parties since these are protected by the law and must not be attacked.
The ICRC and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
Under the Geneva Conventions, organizations which are part of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent are allowed to use the red cross or red crescent emblem at all times. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can also use these emblems, although some restrictions apply in peacetime. The emblems clearly identify Red Cross or Red Crescent personnel, vehicles and facilities in order to ensure that they are respected and protected in all situations.
The ICRC and other Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations rely on the emblems to identify them clearly as entities protected by the law when carrying out humanitarian work in war zones.
It is vital that all involved in Iraq accept the ICRC as a strictly impartial humanitarian organization that works independently of any party to the conflict, including the Coalition forces. If the ICRC is wrongly associated wit h parties to the conflict because of its use of the protective red cross emblem, this could lead to the ICRC’s neutrality being questioned and create additional danger for its personnel and installations.