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Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
Chapter VII : The distinctive emblem
Chapter VII contains the provisions relating to the use and protection of the distinctive emblem. It reaffirms the protective functions of the emblem and clarifies the restrictions on its use. The word ‘distinctive’ is used to describe the emblems in both their protective and indicative forms.
Article 38 confirms that the red cross or red crescent on a white ground is the distinctive emblem to be used by the medical service of a country’s armed forces.
Article 39 sets out how the emblem is to be used by the medical service of the armed forces.
Article 40 elaborates on those articles by describing the means of identification, armlets and identity cards, and their necessary or ideal characteristics. The measures set out in this article are designed to enable permanent medical and religious personnel of the armed forces to be identified as such on the battlefield or when they fall into enemy hands, so that they may benefit from the respect and protection due to them by virtue of Article 24.
Article 41 stipulates that the red cross or red crescent emblem on a white armlet may also be worn by the auxiliary medical personnel covered in Article 25.
Article 42 details how, and under whose control, the emblem as a protective device should be displayed on military medical units and establishments that enjoy respect and protection under Article 19 of the Convention. It requires Parties to the conflict to ensure, subject to military considerations, that the emblem is clearly visible to the enemy armed forces.
Article 43 governs the marking of medical units of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or other voluntary aid societies of neutral countries that have been authorized to lend assistance to a Party to the conflict in accordance with the provisions of Article 27.
Article 44 reiterates the general rule that the emblem may only be used as a protective device for the marking of medical units and establishments, personnel and material as laid down under the First Convention, as well as, where relevant, under the other Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Importantly, the article also sets out the circumstances in which the emblem may be used as an indicative device by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and, furthermore, permits the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to make use of the emblem at all times.
Lastly, it should be noted that Articles 53 and 54 in Chapter IX deal with the misuse of the distinctive emblems and that the present chapter is complemented by Article 18 of Additional Protocol I and its Annex I.
- The red lion and sun emblem, which is also mentioned in Article 38 of the Convention, has not been used by any State since 1980. An additional emblem – the red crystal – was created by Additional Protocol III of 2005. It is subject to the same rules as the original emblems.
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