Practice Relating to Rule 59. Improper Use of the Distinctive Emblems of the Geneva Conventions
South Africa’s Geneva Conventions Notice (1915) provides: “It is an offence … to use the said emblem of the ‘Red Cross’ or ‘Geneva Cross’ for the purpose of trade or business or for any other purpose whatsoever without the authority of His Excellency the Governor-General-in-Council.”
South Africa’s ICC Act (2002) reproduces the war crimes listed in the 1998 ICC Statute, including in international armed conflicts: “making improper use … of the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions, resulting in death or serious personal injury”.
South Africa’s Emblem Act (2007) provides:
6. The emblems of a red cross and a red crescent moon are protected in the manner provided for in this Act and in the [1949 Geneva Conventions and 1977 Additional Protocols I and II].
Use of emblems
7. An emblem may only be used –
(a) as a sign that persons or equipment fall under the protection of the Conventions;
(b) to show that persons or equipment are connected to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement;
(c) with the authorisation of the Minister or, in respect of personnel and equipment of the South African National Defence Force, the Minister of Defence; or
(d) as otherwise authorised by the Conventions.
Offences and penalties
9. (I) No person may make use of an emblem or an imitation thereof, or words describing an emblem, unless that person –
(a) falls under the protection of the Conventions;
(b) is connected with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement or any body forming part of that movement;
(e) is authorised by the Minister or, in respect of the South African National Defence Force, the Minister of Defence to make use of an emblem;
(d) is otherwise authorised by the Conventions to make use of an emblem; or
(e) uses the emblem, imitation or words for the purposes of bona fide research at a recognised educational or research institution or for the purposes of bona fide reporting in the news media.
(2) Any person who contravenes subsection (I) is guilty of an offence and on conviction liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both a fine and such imprisonment.