Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2016 
Article 38 : Emblem of the Convention
Text of the provision*
(1) As a compliment to Switzerland, the heraldic emblem of the red cross on a white ground, formed by reversing the Federal colours, is retained as the emblem and distinctive sign of the Medical Service of armed forces.
(2) Nevertheless, in the case of countries which already use as emblem, in place of the red cross, the red crescent or the red lion and sun on a white ground, those emblems are also recognized by the terms of the present Convention.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
Bangladesh: Declaration made on 20 December 1988;[1] Islamic Republic of Iran: Declaration made on 4 September 1980; communication made on 12 September 2000;[2] and Israel: Reservation made on signature on 8 December 1949 and maintained on ratification.[3]
Contents

A. Introduction
2527  Article 38 confirms the red cross on a white ground as the distinctive emblem to be used by the medical service of a country’s armed forces. The desirability of creating a single, uniform sign as a means of improving the protection of sick and wounded soldiers and members of the military medical service was first raised prior to the drafting of the original Geneva Convention of 1864. Such a uniform distinctive sign was established in the 1864 Geneva Convention and was included and further developed in subsequent revisions of the Convention. The content of Article 38 reflects these elaborations.
2528  The second paragraph of Article 38 also recognizes the emblems of the red crescent and of the red lion and sun as alternatives to the red cross emblem, for those countries already using either of these two emblems at the time Article 38 was adopted. For those countries, the red crescent emblem and the red lion and sun emblem enjoyed equal status under the First Convention.[4] The intention was that new States party to the Convention would use the red cross emblem, and that the latter two emblems would remain limited exceptions. However, in practice, States adopted the emblem most suitable for their national circumstances. Today, all of the distinctive emblems enjoy equal status.[5]
2529  The formal recognition of distinctive signs additional to the red cross reflects the historical, ideological and/or practical difficulties for some States Parties in using the red cross emblem, and the efforts by those responsible for negotiating the successive Geneva Conventions to find a suitable solution. In practice, the red cross emblem is the distinctive sign most widely used by the medical services of countries’ armed forces, although the red crescent emblem is used by a significant number of States Parties.
2530  All of the distinctive emblems are to be understood as signs of neutrality and protection, devoid of any religious, ideological or other partisan significance. In spite of their intended neutrality, the plurality of distinctive emblems confirmed under Article 38 has given rise to a number of practical difficulties, both for States and for the components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (hereinafter ‘the Movement’). In some cases, misperceptions about the nature of the emblems have served to undermine their protective value and to diminish their purpose of representing universal values. These difficulties were addressed in 2005 when a new and additional distinctive emblem, the red crystal, was adopted. This positive step must be complemented by continuing efforts to ensure wide understanding of the special meaning and neutral status of all the distinctive emblems.
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B. Historical background
1. Establishment of the distinctive emblem
2531  Long before the adoption of the original Geneva Convention of 1864, hospitals and ambulances were sometimes marked on the battlefield by a flag of a single colour, which varied according to the occasion and the country. Those responsible for the 1864 Geneva Convention and the founders of the Red Cross Movement recognized the need for a uniform international emblem as the visible sign of the immunity to which medical personnel (and their equipment) and the wounded should be entitled.[6]
2532  The sign of the red cross on a white ground came into being at the first International Conference, which met in Geneva from 26–29 October 1863 and laid the foundations of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.[7] The Diplomatic Conference which drew up the original Geneva Convention the following year officially adopted the red cross on a white ground as a single distinctive emblem for all army medical personnel, and for military hospitals and ambulances.[8]
2533  The intention of those responsible for establishing the Movement and the original Geneva Convention was to create a sign devoid of any religious, cultural or other partisan significance.[9] However, it soon became clear that certain countries would be unwilling to accept and to use the newly established distinctive sign of a red cross on a white ground. Indeed, it was not long after the adoption of the red cross emblem that a new sign, a red crescent on a white ground, came into use.[10]
2534  While the need for a single unifying emblem was upheld during the 1906 Diplomatic Conference which undertook the first revision of the 1864 Geneva Convention, the red crescent sign continued to be used in practice by the Ottoman Empire, while Persia (now the Islamic Republic of Iran) continued to use the sign of the red lion and sun.[11]
2535  By the time of the 1929 Diplomatic Conference, and on the proposal of the Turkish, Persian and Egyptian delegates, both the red crescent and the red lion and sun emblems were formally adopted under the revised Convention,[12] the intention being that these two emblems would only be used by the three countries that had proposed their inclusion.[13] However, not long after the adoption of the revised Convention, it became apparent that several additional countries wished to use, or in fact were already using, alternative signs.[14]
2536  The wording of the current article, as agreed in 1949, remained very similar to the text included in the 1929 Convention. As in 1929, the intention was that, while the red cross would remain the primary distinctive emblem, the red crescent emblem and the red lion and sun emblem would represent exceptions of limited application. However, in the years following the adoption of the First Convention in 1949, it became clear that the desire to limit the use of these latter emblems could not be maintained if the overall goal was to encourage universal acceptance of the Conventions; this was particularly so in relation to the expanding use of the red crescent emblem. Much later, in 2005, an additional distinctive emblem – the red crystal – was adopted, in part to limit the proliferation of the distinctive emblems.[15] Today, there is no hierarchy between the distinctive emblems, all enjoying equal status.[16]
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2. Nature of the emblem
2537  The plurality of distinctive emblems established under Article 38 has both clear advantages and disadvantages, many of these having been borne out in practice since 1949. Although the red lion and sun emblem has not been used by any State since 1980,[17] the use of the red crescent emblem has increased over time.[18] On the one hand, one may conclude that the formal recognition of the red crescent emblem has enabled wider acceptance of the Geneva Conventions and consequently, the recognition of a greater number of National Societies within the Movement. On the other hand, the coexistence of, in effect, two distinctive emblems may have resulted in somewhat diminishing their neutral significance and protective value, with potentially dangerous consequences.[19]
2538  Practice suggests that, while the red crescent emblem is not used by any States whose populations are not predominantly Muslim, a number of States whose populations are predominantly Muslim choose to use the red cross emblem.[20] Further, there are some States which use the red cross emblem that are primarily Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto or Taoist,[21] that have predominantly indigenous or other beliefs, or that are officially atheist.[22] While these examples serve to reinforce the intended meaning and status of the red cross emblem as a sign of neutrality, the National Societies in some of these countries have, at times, experienced operational difficulties, which may in part be caused by their use of the red cross emblem.
2539  Article 38 makes it clear that the emblem is the distinctive sign of the medical services of armed forces. Other articles of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols set out those individuals and bodies who are also authorized to use the emblem, including the respective components of the Movement.[23] However, the medical service of the armed forces is considered to be the primary user of the emblem,[24] with several examples of national legislation confirming this position.[25]
2540  It is important to note that, while the distinctive emblems are intended to facilitate the identification of certain categories of protected persons and objects under international humanitarian law, they do not in themselves confer such protection.[26]
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3. Form and status of the emblem
2541  Article 38 refers to the ‘heraldic emblem of a red cross on a white ground, formed by reversing the Federal colours’. The form of the red cross emblem is not rigidly defined, but in practice normally consists of a red cross with arms of equal length, wholly surrounded by a white ground.[27] Article 18 of the 1906 revision of the 1864 Geneva Convention affirmed that the sign of the red cross is intended as a reversal of the flag of Switzerland, which provides some guidance as to its shape or form. The essence of that statement was retained in subsequent revisions and has also been useful in reasserting the non-religious nature of the emblem. The precise forms of the red crescent emblem and of the red lion and sun emblem are similarly undefined.[28] The Convention does not prescribe a particular shade of red for the emblems. National legislation on the use of the emblems may set out more detailed descriptions as to their respective forms.[29]
2542  The intention in using the words ‘heraldic emblem’ from 1906 onwards was to reinforce the non-religious nature of the red cross sign. In practice, this has also had the effect of giving the red cross emblem the same standing as official arms,[30] thus encouraging States to enact legislation to protect the emblem.[31] However, this has led to some confusion as to whether the red cross emblem is in fact a heraldic sign. The reference to the ‘Federal colours’ supports the fact that, while the emblem was intended to be equated with the heraldic emblem of the Swiss Confederation, it was not to be considered a heraldic sign itself.[32]
2543  Article 38 also refers to the emblem as the ‘distinctive sign’ of the medical service of the armed forces. Although it is not clear when or by whom this terminology was first used, it may have been by Dr Lucien Baudens, following his experiences in Crimea, where he witnessed Russian cannons firing, on at least two occasions, on doctors and nurses who were tending to the Russian wounded.[33] Such unfortunate circumstances suggested the need for a widely recognized sign that was also highly visible on the battlefield. Similar terminology was also used by others at the time of the 1863 International Conference.[34] However, the term ‘distinctive sign’ did not appear in a treaty text until the 1906 revision of the 1864 Geneva Convention.
2544  Some sources indicate that another reason for choosing the red cross is that it was not already used by any State, a factor also seen as lending credibility to its neutral nature.[35] One may also recall that it was common for different nations to use different flags to identify their respective medical services, the lack of recognition of and respect for these flags arguably leading to a greater number of casualties on the battlefield. Consequently, the creation of a sign ‘distinctive’ in nature addressed the twin concerns of uniformity and uniqueness. Various studies on visibility have concluded that, in practice, the red cross is the most easily distinguishable of the emblems.[36]
2545  In more recent times, States have continued to establish special means of identification for medical units and transports. In addition, a number of distinctive signals were adopted in Additional Protocol I.[37]
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C. Discussion
2546  Article 38 reaffirms the significance and role of the three distinctive emblems – the red cross, the red crescent and the red lion and sun – in international law. It is different from other provisions of the First Convention, in that it is an article of general application, its implementation being dependent upon subsequent articles of the Convention, as well as those of other Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.[38] The main issues in giving effect to Article 38 are set out below.
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1. Adoption of a different emblem after 1949
2547  According to a strict reading of Article 38, States Parties are required to adopt the red cross emblem on ratification. As Article 38(2) makes clear, the only States able to use the red crescent emblem or the red lion and sun emblem were those already doing so at the time the 1949 Geneva Conventions were adopted. Such a framework was felt necessary to encourage the desired eventual return to use of a single distinctive emblem.
2548  In practice, a number of States, when adhering to the First Convention, chose to use the red crescent emblem, and did so without objections (at least those of a public nature) being raised by other States Parties.[39] Nor were there formal objections from the ICRC when officially recognizing their respective National Red Crescent Societies.[40] Consequently, one must conclude that a practice or custom at variance with the rule set out in Article 38 has thus been allowed to take root.
2549  The situation has been somewhat similar in relation to States that formally adopted the red cross emblem on their ratification of the Conventions, but later elected to change to the red crescent emblem (that is, such actions have not been publicly opposed). That said, it appears that private reservations by at least one State Party were expressed on one such occasion, while the ICRC has also in the past communicated its concerns directly to relevant States Parties in such circumstances, in particular highlighting the difficulties such a move would create for the efforts to return to a single universal emblem. It would be the responsibility of States party to the Geneva Conventions, if they wish to do so, to object or to express reservations to a new State Party adopting the red crescent emblem.
2550  As noted above, one of the distinctive emblems recognized under Article 38(2) is the emblem of the red lion and sun. It has only ever been used by one State Party, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which in 1980 communicated its intention to no longer use the red lion and sun emblem and henceforth to use the red crescent emblem, while reserving the right to return to the use of the red lion and sun should new distinctive emblems be recognized.[41] Since the date of this reservation, the red lion and sun emblem has not been used.
2551  To conclude, practice since the adoption of Article 38 demonstrates that States Parties have taken a more flexible approach to its application.[42] New States Parties have been free to choose any one of the distinctive emblems set out in Article 38. Moreover, States Parties which used a red cross emblem when the First Convention was adopted in 1949 have later been able to change to the red crescent emblem (in effect, moving from the established or default position to the exception). Further, one State Party has been able to change without difficulty from one of the emblems initially defined as a limited exception to another also defined as such (that is, from the red lion and sun emblem to the red crescent emblem).
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2. Equal status of the emblems
2552  Article 38 established a hierarchy among the distinctive emblems. As indicated above, the text provided for the red crescent and the red lion and sun emblems to continue to be used only by those States that had utilized one of these signs prior to 1949. For all other States Parties, the use of the red cross emblem was to be the rule. That said, as Article 38 also makes clear, in terms of their use in practice, the emblems were to be understood as sharing an identical meaning and status.[43]
2553  The preceding section demonstrates the practical departure from the rule regarding the hierarchy of the emblems in the years following 1949. Gradually, the officially recognized distinctive emblems acquired de facto equal status. The desire to return to a single emblem remained a continuing concern for the ICRC, due to a sense that this would best serve the emblem’s universal humanitarian purpose. However, it is clear that a pragmatic approach to the increasing use of the red crescent emblem was also adopted by the organization, in particular in the light of State practice on the matter.
2554  The equal status of the emblems under international humanitarian law was formally recognized in 2005 by the adoption of Additional Protocol III. Article 2(1) of Additional Protocol III states that the distinctive emblems enjoy equal status.[44]
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3. Use of the ‘double emblem’
2555  Article 38 makes it clear that States Parties may use only one of the three distinctive emblems; it does not envisage the possibility of using, for example, the red cross emblem and the red crescent emblem alongside one another. This restriction caused difficulties for two States in the decades following 1949, both of which wished to use the red cross emblem and the red crescent emblem alongside one another for the medical service of their respective armed forces, as well as for their respective National Societies.[45] Based on the conditions for the recognition of new National Societies as defined in the Statutes of the Movement, the ICRC’s consistent practice regarding the latter issue is not to recognize a National Society wishing to use a ‘double emblem’.[46]
2556  These difficulties were somewhat abated by the adoption in 2005 of Additional Protocol III. Additional Protocol III allows the medical services and religious personnel of States Parties’ armed forces to make temporary use of any one of the distinctive emblems, where this may enhance protection.[47] The National Societies of States Parties which decide to use the red crystal emblem may, for indicative purposes only,[48] choose to incorporate within the red crystal a combination of distinctive emblems. This may comprise, for example, the red cross and red crescent emblems alongside one another.[49]
2557  It should be noted that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies uses as its logo a red cross and a red crescent side by side set on a white background within a red rectangle.[50]
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4. Red crystal emblem
2558  It has been argued that ‘the co-existence of the two emblems has had the effect of accentuating their religious connotation in public opinion’.[51] Not only has this resulted in potentially weakening their protective value (in certain contexts), but also in possibly undermining the distinctive signs’ claim to universality (that is, by their being misinterpreted as representing two widespread monotheistic religions, to the exclusion of all other faiths).[52]
2559  At least one State has felt unable to adopt any of the formally recognized distinctive emblems, resulting in practical difficulties not only for the medical service of its armed forces, but also for its National Society.[53] Further, as noted above, other States have made the case for using more than one emblem in juxtaposition, in order to represent fully the religious and cultural affiliations of different sections of their populations. The plurality of distinctive emblems has also been viewed as inconsistent with the Fundamental Principle of unity, one of seven foundational principles observed by the Movement.[54] Additionally, in practical terms, since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, in a minority of cases States Parties and the organizations of the Movement have experienced operational difficulties when using the red cross emblem (as well as when using the red crescent emblem).
2560  For many years, a solution to the above-mentioned difficulties was actively sought by States and by the Movement. As mentioned above, in 2005, a new distinctive emblem was agreed – the ‘Third Protocol emblem’, i.e. the red crystal – under the auspices of Additional Protocol III.[55] While emphasizing that the distinctive emblems were never intended to have any religious, ethnic, racial, regional or political significance, the signatories to Additional Protocol III also recognized the difficulties that certain States and National Societies may have with their use.[56]
2561  With the adoption of Additional Protocol III, the equal status of the distinctive emblems is confirmed in international law. In addition, the National Societies of those States Parties which decide to use the red crystal emblem may choose to incorporate within its frame (for indicative purposes only) one of the other distinctive emblems (or a combination thereof), or their own distinctive sign.[57]
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Select bibliography
Baudens, Lucien, La guerre de Crimée, Michel Lévy Frères, Paris, 1858.
Bugnion, François, The emblem of the Red Cross: A brief history, ICRC, Geneva, 1977.
Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal, ICRC, Geneva, 2007.
Cauderay, Gérald C., ‘Visibility of the distinctive emblem on medical establishments, units, and transports’, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 30, No. 277, August 1990, pp. 295–321.
Kosuge, N. Margaret, ‘The “non-religious” red cross emblem and Japan’, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 85, No. 849, March 2003, pp. 75–93.
Meyer, Michael, ‘The proposed new neutral protective emblem: a long-term solution to a long-standing problem’, in Richard Burchill, Nigel D. White and Justin Morris (eds), International Conflict and Security Law: Essays in Memory of Hilaire McCoubrey, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 84–107.
Pictet, Jean S., ‘Le signe de la croix rouge’, Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 31, No. 363, March 1949, pp. 167–201 (later published in English as ‘The sign of the red cross’).
Quéguiner, Jean-François, ‘Commentary on the Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (Protocol III)’, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 89, No. 865, March 2007, pp. 175–207.
Sommaruga, Cornelio, ‘Unity and plurality of the emblems’, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 32, No. 289, August 1992, pp. 333–338.

1 - Communication from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of 9 January 1989: ‘The Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva has brought to the knowledge of the Swiss Government, by note dated 20 December 1988, the decision of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to use henceforth the red crescent instead of the red cross as the emblem and distinctive sign.’
2 - On 4 September 1980 the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran declared that henceforth it wished to use the red crescent as the distinctive emblem and sign instead of the red lion and sun. In its communication of 23 July 2000, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that ‘in the case of approval and increase of new distinctive emblems’, it will ‘maintain its right of using the Red Lion and Sun Emblem once again’.
3 - United Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 75, p. 436: ‘Subject to the reservation that, while respecting the inviolability of the distinctive signs and emblems of the Convention, Israel will use the Red Shield of David as the emblem and distinctive sign of the medical services of her armed forces.’
4 - Articles in the other 1949 Geneva Conventions concerning the use of the red cross emblem also give equal status to the red crescent and the red lion and sun emblems.
5 - This is confirmed by Article 2(1) of Additional Protocol III. The word ‘distinctive’ is used to describe the emblems in both their protective and indicative forms. This is confirmed, for example, in preambular paragraphs 7 and 9 of Additional Protocol III, as well as in Article 3 of Protocol III (on the indicative use of the Third Protocol emblem). Article 18(7) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I refers to ‘use of the distinctive emblem in peacetime’, as prescribed in Article 44 of the First Convention. It may be noted, however, that Article 8(l) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I uses the words ‘distinctive emblem’ to refer to the emblem in its protective function for the purposes of that Protocol.
6 - Even earlier, in 1857, Lucien Baudens, a military doctor operating in the Crimean War, had highlighted the need for a single distinctive sign for the medical personnel of all countries. Bugnion, 2007, p. 3.
7 - Article 8 of the Resolutions of the 1863 Geneva International Conference provided that the voluntary medical personnel attached to armies ‘shall wear in all countries, as a uniform distinctive sign, a white armlet with a red cross’. The Recommendations of the Conference included ‘that a uniform distinctive sign be recognized for the Medical Corps of all armies, or at least for all persons of the same army belonging to this Service; and, that a uniform flag also be adopted in all countries for ambulances and hospitals’.
8 - Geneva Convention (1864), Article 7.
9 - The 1864 Geneva Convention and indeed the red cross emblem were intended to represent standards felt to be universal in nature. Understandably, the Convention was a product of its time, reflecting the Euro-Christian tradition (Kosuge, p. 75). Of course, the humanitarian values reflected in the original Geneva Convention are found in traditions worldwide.
10 - The first instance of such use was during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, when the Ottoman Empire opted to use a red crescent on a white ground for the medical service of its armed forces (despite its having acceded to the 1864 Convention without reservation). The soldiers of the Ottoman Empire felt offended by the red cross emblem, which reminded them of the sign of the medieval crusaders.
11 - The 1906 Diplomatic Conference authorized States to file reservations to the articles relating to the distinctive emblem, the Ottoman Empire and Persia choosing to do so in relation to the red crescent and the red lion and sun, respectively. Bugnion, 2007, p. 11.
12 - Geneva Convention on the Wounded and Sick (1929), Article 19.
13 - Bugnion, 2007, p. 11.
14 - In 1931, the ICRC became aware of the establishment of a relief society in Palestine that was using the red shield of David as its emblem. In 1935, Afghanistan requested recognition of the Red Archway Society (using the emblem of a red mosque on a white ground). Bugnion, 2007, p. 13.
15 - See Additional Protocol III.
16 - For a further discussion, see section C.2.
17 - In 1980 the Islamic Republic of Iran declared its adoption of the red crescent emblem in place of the red lion and sun, while reserving the right to return to the red lion and sun emblem in the future. See fn. 41.
18 - In 2015, 33 States Parties used the red crescent emblem.
19 - Aside from legal concerns, practical experience has shown that the emblems command far less respect on the battlefield when they are identified with one or another Party to the conflict. This is particularly apparent where each Party to the conflict uses a different distinctive emblem. Bugnion, 2007, p. 30. The existence of a plurality of emblems has the potential to work against the unity of the Movement.
20 - These include Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mali and Niger.
21 - For example, India (predominantly Hindu) and Japan (predominantly Buddhist and Shinto).
22 - For example, the People’s Republic of China.
23 - See e.g. Article 44 of the First Convention. Article 18, read together with Article 8, of Additional Protocol I, authorizes users of the emblem to include civilian medical personnel, units and transports.
24 - For the secondary use of the emblem (referred to as ‘indicative’ use), see the commentary on Article 44, section D. The emblem is normally used indicatively by the organizations of the Movement.
25 - See e.g. the national laws on emblem use in a number of countries, including: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Emblem Law, 2002; Georgia, Emblem Law, 1997; Guatemala, Emblem Law, 1997, as amended; and Kazakhstan, Emblem Instruction, 2002.
26 - Article 1(2) of Annex 1 to Additional Protocol I (Regulations concerning identification, as amended on 30 November 1993) in effect supports this fundamental point. See also the commentary on Article 39 of the First Convention, paras 2578–2579.
27 - The reference to ‘reversing the Federal colours’ is not intended to suggest that the form of the red cross emblem should follow the form of the heraldic emblem of the Swiss Confederation (the latter being prescribed). In fact, a measure of flexibility in form was felt preferable in armed conflict and other situations. The reasons are clear. If the form of the cross had been rigidly defined, attempts might have been made to justify attacks on installations protected by the Convention, on the pretext that the emblems displayed were not of the prescribed dimensions. Similarly, unscrupulous persons could have taken advantage of a rigid definition to use a slightly larger or slightly smaller red cross for commercial purposes.
28 - Articles 4–5 of Annex I to Additional Protocol I provide pictorial models of the red cross, red crescent and red lion and sun emblems, which States Parties may use as a guide. More detailed guidance is contained in Philippe Eberlin, Protective Signs, ICRC, Geneva, 1983, and Gérald C. Cauderay, Manual for the Use of Technical Means of Identification by Hospital Ships, Coastal Rescue Craft, Other Protected Craft and Medical Aircraft, ICRC, Geneva, 1990. See also Emblem Regulations (1991), Article 5.
29 - In common-law countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, the form of the red cross emblem is specified as comprising vertical and horizontal arms of the same length on, and completely surrounded by, a white ground. The same legislation also defines the form of the other distinctive emblems. As an example regarding the form of the red crescent emblem, Tajikistan’s national law on emblem use explains that ‘the Red Crescent emblem depicts a red crescent placed on a white background, with its sharp points turned to the right from the one who faces it, not reaching its margins’. In addition, some National Red Cross Societies have defined the form of cross which they themselves will use. The majority appear to have chosen a cross made up of five equal squares (the shape which is most easily mass-produced).
30 - The ‘official arms’, for example of a State, would normally consist of a heraldic design (made up of symbols or signs representing that country) on a shield (sometimes also referred to as armorial bearings, armorial devices or heraldic devices). The use of official arms is normally regulated by national legislation.
31 - This is in addition to the specific provisions of the First and Second Conventions. See Articles 53 and 54 of the First Convention and Article 45 of the Second Convention.
32 - The confusion as to the heraldic status of the red cross emblem is exacerbated by the fact that some national laws refer, for example, to the ‘heraldic emblems of the Red Cross and Geneva Cross’.
33 - Baudens, p. 20.
34 - It is not entirely clear and undisputed as to who initially proposed the red cross as the ‘distinctive emblem’ or sign, although it would appear that Louis Appia may have first suggested it. See the records of the 1863 Geneva International Conference (Compte Rendu de la Conférence internationale réunie à Genève les 26, 27, 28 et 29 octobre 1863 pour étudier les moyens de pourvoir à l’insuffisance du service sanitaire dans les Armées en Campagne, 1904), pp. 93–94.
35 - The sign was meant to be international and neutral, a symbol of disinterested aid to the wounded soldier, whether friend or foe.
36 - Cauderay, p. 317. For more details, see the commentary on Article 42, para. 2646.
37 - For further information, see Article 18 and Annex I, Chapter III, of Additional Protocol I.
38 - As examples, see First Convention, Articles 39–44; Second Convention, Articles 41–45; and Additional Protocol I, Articles 18(4), 38 and 85(3)(f).
39 - Libya and Morocco are two examples where no formal objections were raised to the use of the red crescent emblem following their respective accessions to the Geneva Conventions.
40 - Under the 1986 Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the ICRC has the function of recognizing newly established or reconstituted National Societies as components of the Movement (Article 5(2)(b)). A National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society must use the same emblem as the medical service of its country’s armed forces. This long-established practice is based on the National Society’s role as an auxiliary to the military medical service of its country, and is supported by the relevant provisions of the First Convention, e.g. Articles 26, 40 and 44.
41 - Declarations made on 4 September 1980 and 12 September 2000 by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
42 - This flexible approach can be seen as affirmed also with the adoption of Additional Protocol III in 2005.
43 - This is borne out in subsequent articles of the First Convention and the other Geneva Conventions.
44 - The commentary on Article 2(1) explains that the evolution in the equality of the emblems (including the red crystal emblem provided for in Additional Protocol III) is explicitly acknowledged by the declaration of their equal legal status, and also notes that the paragraph logically employs the plural, i.e. ‘distinctive emblems’. See Quéguiner, p. 187.
45 - In 1993, Kazakhstan passed a parliamentary decree setting out its adhesion to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, with a reservation on use of the ‘double heraldic emblem of the red crescent and red cross on a white ground’. Eritrea expressed a similar wish in relation to its military medical service and National Society, although it made no reservations in relation to Article 38 when it acceded to the Conventions in 2000. Bugnion, 2007, p. 19.
46 - Article 4 of the 1986 Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which provides under condition 5 that a National Society must ‘[u]se a name and distinctive emblem in conformity with the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols’. The ICRC first encountered such a proposal when Cyprus achieved independence in the early 1960s. Bugnion, 1977, p. 62.
47 - See Additional Protocol III, Article 2(4).
48 - For an explanation of the use of the emblem for indicative purposes, see the commentary on Article 44, section D.
49 - See Additional Protocol III, Article 3(1)(a).
50 - In 1981, after Iran dropped its use of the red lion and sun, the League of Red Cross Societies (which became the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 1991) began using the double emblem. Annex to Rule 1 para. 1.3 of the International Federation’s Rules of Procedure, revised and adopted by the 16th Session of the General Assembly, November 2007, pp. 31–32, available at https://www.ifrc.org/Global/Governance/Statutory/RoP_revised-en.pdf.
51 - Sommaruga, pp. 334–335.
52 - Ibid.
53 - The Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David), the National Society of Israel, was until 2006 unable to be formally recognized as a member of the Movement, given that it did not use a name and distinctive emblem in conformity with the Geneva Conventions, as required under Article 4 of the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
54 - Bugnion, 2007, p. 27. The text of the Fundamental Principle of unity is as follows: ‘There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.’ The text of the Fundamental Principles is set out in the preamble to the 1986 Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as amended in 1995 and 2006.
55 - Article 2(2) of Additional Protocol III describes the red crystal emblem as being composed of ‘a red frame in the shape of a square on edge on a white ground’. The Annex to Additional Protocol III provides a pictorial model of the red crystal emblem. See also Emblem Regulations (1991), Article 5.
56 - As set out in the fifth and ninth preambular paragraphs of Additional Protocol III.
57 - In accordance with Article 3(1)(b) of Additional Protocol III, such other sign or emblem must have been in ‘effective use’ by the State Party and such use must have been the subject of a communication to other High Contracting Parties and the ICRC through the depositary prior to the adoption of Additional Protocol III. Only the Red Shield of David (the Magen David Adom) fulfils these conditions.