Practice Relating to Rule 59. Improper Use of the Distinctive Emblems of the Geneva Conventions
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands provides: “It is forbidden to make improper use of the recognized emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.”
The manual adds that “the misuse of the emblem of the Red Cross (the Red Crescent)” is a grave breach of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states that it is prohibited “to misuse … the red cross emblem”.
The manual adds: “Misuse of the red cross is a war crime.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “It is forbidden to misuse the recognized emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.”
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
1041. It is prohibited to misuse recognized emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and other emblems and signs named in the conventions of the law of war [1949 Geneva Conventions] …
1059. The red cross or red crescent emblem must be worn visibly by medical and religious personnel. It must be visibly displayed on medical units and means of transport. The emblem must be respected in all circumstances, and may not be misused.
Under the Penal Code (1881), as amended in 1984, of the Netherlands, the use without prior authorization of the red cross emblem, the words “Red Cross” or “Geneva Cross” or of other recognized protective emblems or terminology is a criminal offence.
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, “making improper use … of the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions, resulting in death or serious personal injury”, is a crime, when committed in an international armed conflict.
In its judgment in the Red Cross Emblem case
in 1979, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands held that the aim of the provision of the Criminal Code of the Netherlands prohibiting the use without prior authorization of the distinctive emblems was to prevent unauthorized persons from using the emblems.