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British Red Cross welcomes new emblem legislation

17 June 2009

Flag of red crystal emblemTill Meyer (ICRC)The House of Commons has passed legislation enabling the use of the protective red crystal emblem, a move welcomed by the British Red Cross.The medical services of the United Kingdom armed forces will continue to use the red cross emblem. However, the Act will allow them to use either the red crystal or the red crescent on a temporary basis where it could enhance protection.The British Red Cross, subject to government authorisation, may also in exceptional circumstances make use of the red crystal emblem to facilitate its work.

Protecting medical and humanitarian workers

Michael Meyer, head of international law at the British Red Cross, said: “The British Red Cross remains fully committed to continue using the existing red cross emblem, as we have done for over 130 years. It is one of the most recognised symbols on earth and will continue to be our emblem long into the future. 

“However, we believe that allowing exceptional use of the red crystal emblem would enhance protection for the medical services of the armed forces and assist us in our humanitarian work.”

The Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill now only awaits the Royal Assent to become an Act of Parliament.

This Act will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Third Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The Protocol, adopted in 2005, introduced a new emblem, the red crystal, to rank alongside the emblems of the red cross and red crescent as symbols of neutrality and protection. 

Supporting international humanitarian law

The Act grants the same protection to the red crystal emblem as is already granted to the red cross and the red crescent.  It will be a criminal offence to use any of these emblems in the United Kingdom without the authority of the Secretary of State.

The British Red Cross welcomes the commitment shown by the British government through this Act to remain among the leading nations in supporting international humanitarian law.

Michael Meyer said: “We look forward to working with the government both in implementing the terms of the Act and in introducing further legislation for those international humanitarian law treaties to which the United Kingdom is not yet a Party. “It is particularly gratifying that the Bill had all-Party support and was passed during the year marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions. The expressions of support from all sides of the House for the British Red Cross and for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement generally were also much appreciated.”

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