Rule 61. The improper use of other internationally recognized emblems is prohibited.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
With respect to the distinctive emblem for cultural property, this rule is contained in the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.[1] It is also contained in Article 38(1) of Additional Protocol I with respect to internationally recognized emblems in general, including the protective emblem of cultural property.[2] Article 66(8) of Additional Protocol I requires States party to take measures to prevent and repress any misuse of the international distinctive sign of civil defence.[3]
The prohibition of the improper use of other internationally recognized emblems is stated in numerous military manuals.[4] Violation of this rule is an offence under the legislation of numerous States.[5] This rule is also supported by the practice of States not, or not at the time, party to Additional Protocol I or to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.[6]
With respect to the distinctive emblem for cultural property, this rule is contained in the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.[7] The rule that it is “forbidden to misuse deliberately in armed conflict other internationally recognized protective emblems”, including the protective emblem of cultural property, was included by consensus in the draft of Additional Protocol II by Committee III of the Diplomatic Conference leading to the adoption of the Additional Protocols but was deleted at the last moment as part of a package aimed at the adoption of a simplified text.[8]
The prohibition of the improper use of other internationally recognized emblems is stated in military manuals which are applicable in or have been applied in non-international armed conflicts.[9] Violation of this rule is an offence under the legislation of numerous States.[10]
No official contrary practice was found with respect to either international or non-international armed conflicts. No party has denied the applicability of this rule or claimed that it would be lawful to use improperly internationally recognized emblems. Improper use would also undermine the protection due to persons and objects identified by such emblems.
The term “other internationally recognized emblems” includes the protective emblem of cultural property, the international distinctive sign of civil defence and the international special sign for works and installations containing dangerous forces. It also includes the protective emblem for hospital zones and localities,[11] the protective emblem for hospital and safety zones and localities,[12] the letters “PW” or “PG” used to mark prisoner-of-war camps[13] and the letters “IC” used to mark civilian internment camps.[14]
The phrase “improper use” refers to any use other than that for which these emblems were intended, namely the identification of the respective objects, zones, localities and camps.
[1] Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, Article 17 (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 18, § 550).
[2] Additional Protocol I, Article 38(1) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 551).
[3] Additional Protocol I, Article 66(8) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 552).
[4] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 556), Australia (ibid., §§ 557–558), Belgium (ibid., § 559), Burkina Faso (ibid., § 560), Cameroon (ibid., §§ 561–562), Canada (ibid., § 563), Colombia (ibid., § 564), Congo (ibid., § 565), Ecuador (ibid., § 566), France (ibid., §§ 567–568), Germany (ibid., § 569), Italy (ibid., § 570), Lebanon (ibid., § 571), Mali (ibid., § 572), Morocco (ibid., § 573), Netherlands (ibid., § 574), New Zealand (ibid., § 575), Russian Federation (ibid., § 576), Senegal (ibid., § 577), Spain (ibid., § 578), Sweden (ibid., § 579), United States (ibid., §§ 580–581) and Yugoslavia (ibid., § 582).
[5] See, e.g., the legislation of Algeria (ibid., § 583), Argentina (ibid., § 585), Armenia (ibid., § 586), Australia (ibid., § 587), Belarus (ibid., § 589), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ibid., § 590), Burkina Faso (ibid., § 591), Democratic Republic of the Congo (ibid., § 592), Cook Islands (ibid., § 593), Côte d’Ivoire (ibid., § 594), Croatia (ibid., § 595), Denmark (ibid., § 596), Estonia (ibid., § 597), Finland (ibid., § 598), France (ibid., § 599), Guinea (ibid., § 600), Ireland (ibid., § 601), Italy (ibid., § 602), Mali (ibid., § 603), Norway (ibid., §§ 604–605), Poland (ibid., § 606), Slovenia (ibid., § 607), Spain (ibid., § 608), Sweden (ibid., §§ 609–610), Switzerland (ibid., §§ 611–612), United Kingdom (ibid., § 613), Yugoslavia (ibid., § 614) and Zimbabwe (ibid., § 615); see also the draft legislation of Argentina (ibid., § 584) and Bangladesh (ibid., § 588).
[6] See the military manuals of the United States (ibid., §§ 580–581), the statements of Israel (ibid., § 617) and United States (ibid., § 619) and the practice of the United Kingdom (ibid., § 618).
[7] Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, Article 17 (ibid., § 550).
[8] Draft Additional Protocol II, Article 23 (ibid., § 554).
[9] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 557), Colombia (ibid., § 564), Ecuador (ibid., § 566), Germany (ibid., § 569), Italy (ibid., § 570), Lebanon (ibid., § 571) and Yugoslavia (ibid., § 582).
[10] See, e.g., the legislation of Argentina (ibid., § 585), Armenia (ibid., § 586), Belarus (ibid., § 589), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ibid., § 590), Democratic Republic of the Congo (ibid., § 592), Croatia (ibid., § 595), Denmark (ibid., § 596), Estonia (ibid., § 597), Guinea (ibid., § 600), Norway (ibid., §§ 604–605), Poland (ibid., § 606), Slovenia (ibid., § 607), Spain (ibid., § 608), Sweden (ibid., § 610), Switzerland (ibid., § 612) and Yugoslavia (ibid., § 614); see also the legislation of Burkina Faso (ibid., § 591) and Italy (ibid., § 602), the application of which is not excluded in time of non-international armed conflict, and the draft legislation of Argentina (ibid., § 584) and Bangladesh (ibid., § 588).
[11] First Geneva Convention, Article 23 and Annex I, Article 6.
[12] Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 14 and Annex I, Article 6.
[13] Third Geneva Convention, Article 23, third paragraph.
[14] Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 83, third paragraph.