Practice Relating to Rule 59. Improper Use of the Distinctive Emblems of the Geneva Conventions
Norway’s Military Penal Code (1902), as amended in 1981, provides:
Anyone who contravenes or is accessory to the contravention of provisions relating to the protection of persons or property laid down in … the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 … [and in] the two additional protocols to these Conventions … is liable to imprisonment.
Norway’s Penal Code (1902) provides that it is a punishable offence to use “without authority publicly or for an unlawful purpose … any badge or designation which by international agreement binding on Norway is designed for use in connection with aid to the wounded and sick … in war”.
Norway’s Penal Code (1902), as amended in 2008, states:
Any person is liable to punishment for a war crime who in connection with an armed conflict … makes improper use of … the specially protected distinctive emblems [of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols] resulting in death or serious injury.
In its judgment in the Bogstadveien tannlegevak case
in 2007, the District Court of Oslo ordered a dental clinic to pay a fine for the unlawful use of the red cross emblem. The Court noted that Norway had ratified the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It then pointed out that the misuse of the emblem in time of peace could undermine respect for the emblem during armed conflict.
In its judgment in the AAAA Tøyen Tannlegevakt AS case in 2010, in which it allowed an appeal against a lower court’s finding that the logo of a private dental clinic could not “easily be confused” with the emblem of the Red Cross, Norway’s Supreme Court held:
20. … Within the framework of this criminal law provision’s wording, the obligations pursuant to the [Geneva] Convention [I] of 1949 must be assigned considerable weight.
21. When determining these obligations, the starting point must be that the Convention’s objective is to protect the sick and wounded in war. It is thus in war situations that the Red Cross emblem is primarily important. This starting point must be assigned significant importance when interpreting the expression “can be easily confused with”. The emblem must be recognisable and respected in war situations. It is therefore not enough to consider whether confusion may easily take place under normal conditions and close up. The impression that the logo will give at some distance and in relatively stressful situations must also be taken into consideration. In order for a logo not to be covered by the provision, confusion must not take place “easily” under such circumstances either.