Red Cross symbol apparently misused in Colombian mission to free Betancourt

This is all over the news right now so I thought I’d offer up a bit of clarification. The official ICRC press release is pasted below. I bolded the main points, and I’ll paraphrase the basic idea: It’s very important that nobody misrepresent themselves as Red Crossers – be it for reasons that are well-intentioned or not – because the Red Cross is neutral and needs to maintain the trust of all parties so that they can carry out their humanitarian mission.

(Above photo from shows what seems to be part of a red cross symbol on a bib worn by a man involved in the mission.)

ICRC News Release No. 08/129
16 July 2008

Colombia: ICRC underlines importance of respect for red cross emblem

Bogotá/Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross takes note of the statement by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez that a member of the public security forces who participated in the recent operation to free 15 hostages and detainees was wearing a tabard marked with the ICRC’s logo and the red cross emblem.

As the guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC recalls that use of the red cross emblem is specifically regulated by the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977. The red cross emblem must be respected in all circumstance and its misuse is prohibited.

In addition, the ICRC reiterates the importance of respecting the red cross emblem as a protective sign enabling its representatives to access the areas most affected by the armed conflict and to carry out their activities to protect and assist the victims. The ICRC, a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization, must enjoy the trust of all the parties to the conflict to be able to carry out its humanitarian work.

Further information:
Yves Heller, Bogotá, ICRC, tel.: +57 1 313 86 30 or +57 1 311 4 91 07 89
Carlos Ríos. Asesor de Comunicación. Tel:. 3 11 4 91 07 75
Florian Westphal, Geneva, ICRC, tel.: +41 22 730 2282 or +41 79 217 32 80

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