Misuse of Red Cross emblem

Back on July 2, 2008 the Red Cross symbol was misused during the Colombian rescue mission in which 15 hostages were taken to safety. A member of the Colombian military intelligence-led team wore a Red Cross bib, falsely identifying himself as being a volunteer for the organization. It turns out, the rescue team had no official ties to the Red Cross, and they had just used the Red Cross emblem for the operation.

This constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law. This particular incident puts aid workers at a greater risk because now they might be mistrusted. Yves Heller, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bogota said, “The only protection we have is the Red Cross emblem. That’s why it needs to be respected in all circumstances and at all times.” The Red Cross is a neutral organization and is allowed to have access to hostages, detainees, and POW’s. If the emblem is misrepresented, the lives of those being held might be compromised. This event has not stopped the Red Cross from carrying out their humanitarian mission in Colombia.

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