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Emblems of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

  The emblems of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, under the Geneva Conventions, are to be placed on humanitarian and medical vehicles and buildings to protect them from military attack on the battlefield. There are four such emblems, three of which are in use: the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and the Red Crystal. The Red Lion and Sun is also a recognized emblem, but is no longer in use.

There were also prior disputes concerning the use of a Red Star of David by Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli first-aid society; the Red Crystal was created in response to these disputes, thus enabling the admission of MDA to the movement.


History of the emblems

Emblems in use

The Red Cross

The Red Cross emblem was officially approved in Geneva in 1864, a year after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded. The emblem, endorsed by the 16 signatories of the Geneva Conventions on international humanitarian law, is based on the Swiss flag with colors reversed.

The Red Cross flag is not to be confused with the St George cross which is the flag of England, Barcelona, Freiburg and several other places. In order to avoid this confusion the protected symbol is sometimes referred to as the "Greek Red Cross"; that term is also used in United States law to describe the Red Cross. The red cross of the St George cross extends to the edge of the flag, whereas the red cross on the Red Cross flag does not. The Red Cross was originally intended to be a reverse image of the flag of Switzerland, a historically neutral nation.

The Red Crescent

The Red Crescent emblem was first used by ICRC volunteers during the armed conflict between Russia and Turkey (1877–1878). The symbol was officially adopted in 1929, and so far 25 Islamic states have recognized it.

Originally, only the Red Cross was to be used as an emblem of the Geneva Conventions, but because it reminded Muslims of the Crusaders, most of the Muslim nations (primarily the Ottoman Empire, later Turkey) objected to this, and as a result an additional emblem (the Red Crescent) was to be provided for.

Though the crescent is traditionally associated with Islam, the Red Crescent is a color reversal of the Ottoman flag, which was later adapted into the modern flag of Turkey, except that the Red Crescent does not have a star and is usually centered on its white ground.

Iran also adopted the Red Crescent in 1980 after abandoning the Red Lion and Sun (see below).

The Red Crystal

On December 8 2005, partly in response to growing pressure to accommodate MDA as a full member of the Red Cross & Red Crescent movement, a new emblem (officially the Third Protocol Emblem, but more commonly known as the Red Crystal) was adopted by an amendment of the Geneva Conventions known as Protocol III. The new emblem was designed to be easily recognizable and, to make it more universally acceptable throughout different cultures, devoid of religious connotation (contrasting the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which are often associated with Christianity and Islam, respectively). No country or national society is obliged to change their emblems, and none are obliged to use the new one; but all are required to respect it in the same manner as the other emblems.

Societies can choose to use the Red Crystal emblem alongside the Red Cross and/or Red Crescent emblems, or as a border for a Red Cross or Red Crescent emblem. Societies that use other emblems may, with prior approval, use their own emblems alongside or inside the Red Crystal; at present, the only such society is MDA. Alternatively, the emblem can be used alone, which may be useful in areas where religious strife may lead to confusion over the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.

On 22 June 2006, along with its recognition of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Magen David Adom (MDA), the ICRC announced the formal adoption in its statutes of the Red Crystal as a third official symbol.[1] As of 14 January 2007, Protocol III is in full effect, and the Red Crystal emblem is now fully recognized under the Geneva Conventions by the nations that have ratified the protocol. [2]

Eritrea has said it is planning to use the new symbol, because it has a mixture of Christians and Muslims in the country.

Recognized emblems in disuse

The Red Lion and Sun

The Red Lion and Sun Society of Iran was established in 1922 and admitted to the Red Cross & Red Crescent movement in 1923.[3] However, some report the symbol was introduced at Geneva in 1864[citation needed][4] as a counter example to the crescent and cross used by two of Iran's rivals, the Ottoman and the Russian empires. Though that claim is inconsistent with the Red Crescent's history, that history also suggests that the Red Lion and Sun, like the Red Crescent, may have been conceived during the 1877-1878 war between Russia and Turkey.

In 1980, because of the association of the emblem with the Shah, the newly proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iran replaced the Red Lion and Sun with the Red Crescent, consistent with most other Muslim nations. Though the Red Lion and Sun has now fallen into disuse, Iran has in the past reserved the right to take it up again at any time; the Geneva Conventions continue to recognize it as an official emblem, and that status was confirmed by Protocol III even as it added the Red Crystal.

Unrecognized emblems

The Red Star of David (Magen David Adom)

For over 50 years, Israel requested the addition of a Red Star of David, arguing that since Christian and Muslim emblems were recognized, the corresponding Jewish emblem should be as well. This emblem is the one used by Magen David Adom (MDA), the national first-aid society of Israel, but it is still not recognized by the Geneva Conventions as a protected symbol.

The Red Cross & Red Crescent movement repeatedly rejected Israel's request over the years, stating that the Red Cross emblem was not meant to represent Christianity but was a color reversal of the Swiss flag, and also that if Jews (or another group) were to be given another emblem, there would be no end to the number of religious or other groups claiming an emblem for themselves. They reasoned that a proliferation of red symbols would detract from the original intention of the Red Cross emblem, which was to be a single emblem to mark vehicles and buildings protected on humanitarian grounds.

Certain Arab nations, such as Syria, also protested the entry of MDA into the Red Cross movement, making consensus impossible for a time. However, from 2000 to 2006 the American Red Cross withheld its dues (a total of $42 million) to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) because of its refusal to admit MDA [1]; this ultimately led to the creation of the Red Crystal emblem and the admission of MDA on June 22, 2006.

The Red Star of David is not recognized as a protected symbol outside Israel; instead the MDA uses the Red Crystal emblem during international operations in order to ensure protection. Depending on the circumstances, it may place the Red Star of David inside the Red Crystal, or use the Red Crystal alone.

Other proposed symbols

Various other countries have also lobbied for alternative symbols, which have been rejected because of concerns of territorialism.[5][6]

  • Mehrab-e-Ahmar (Afghanistan) - Archway design submitted in 1935, but rejected.
  • Red Lamb (Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)) - Used by one of several rival societies in 1963 to 1964.
  • Red Wheel (India) - Hindu swastika design proposed after the Indian independence movement, but abandoned in favor of the Red Cross.
  • Hakuai Sha (Japan) - Founded in 1877, but adopted the Red Cross in 1887.
  • Red Cedar (Lebanon) - Suggested after the Lebanese Civil War, but abandoned in favor of the Red Cross.
  • Red Rhinoceros (Sudan) - Proposed to unite local branches of the Red Crescent Society of Egypt and the British Red Cross, but abandoned in favor of the Red Crescent.
  • Red Palm (Syria) - Proposed after World War II, but rejected in favor of the Red Crescent.
  • Sapa Unalom Daeng (Thailand) - Founded in 1893, but adopted the Red Cross in 1906.
  • Red Star (Zimbabwe)

Use of the emblems

  As specified by the Geneva Conventions, the four recognized emblems are to be used only to denote the following:

  • facilities for the care of injured and sick armed forces members;
  • armed forces medical personnel and equipment;
  • military chaplains;
  • International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the 185 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

In order to ensure universal respect for the emblems, the Geneva Conventions obliged their signatories to forbid any other use of the names and emblems in wartime and peacetime.

Nevertheless, the misuse of the emblem is widespread and it is often used as a general symbol to indicate first aid, medical supplies and civilian medical services especially walk-in clinics. Misuses appear in movies (A notable example is The Living Daylights [7][8]), on television, and in computer software and games. Service companies, such as those for car repair or lawn maintenance, tout themselves as service "doctors" and incorporate medical symbols to promote themselves.

In 2006, the Canadian Red Cross issued a press release asking video game makers to stop using the red cross in their games.[9]

In order to avoid this conflict, a green cross is often used as a generic alternative.

Some believe that the Geneva Conventions require the revocation of all trademarks that contain the Red Cross, Red Crescent, or Red Lion and Sun, even pre-existing ones such as Johnson & Johnson's Red Cross trademark in the United States (see below). However, pre-existing trademarks are also protected in the implementing legislation of other countries, including Australia[10], New Zealand[11], and the United Kingdom and its dependencies[12]. In many countries, it is a violation of the rule of law to seize intellectual property lawfully created prior to a ban without compensating its owner thru eminent domain, with limited exceptions for offensive or dangerous uses. (For example, a Red Cross on a building - even a J&J building - conveys a potentially false and dangerous impression of military presence in the area to enemy aircraft; thus the U.S. reservations to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as noted below, effectively ban that use even by J&J.) In recognition of this fact, Protocol III expressly preserves most pre-2005 trademarks containing the Red Crystal, as long as they cannot be confused with military uses. Of course, once implementing legislation is enacted, new trademarks bearing an emblem named in the law are banned.

International protection of images

The protected status of these images was established in the First Geneva Convention which states:[13]

  • Art. 44. With the exception of the cases mentioned in the following paragraphs of the present Article, the emblem of the red cross on a white ground and the words " Red Cross" or " Geneva Cross " may not be employed, either in time of peace or in time of war, except to indicate or to protect the medical units and establishments, the personnel and material protected by the present Convention and other Conventions dealing with similar matters. The same shall apply to the emblems mentioned in Article 38, second paragraph, in respect of the countries which use them. The National Red Cross Societies and other societies designated in Article 26 shall have the right to use the distinctive emblem conferring the protection of the Convention only within the framework of the present paragraph.
  • Art. 44. (cont.) Furthermore, National Red Cross (Red Crescent, Red Lion and Sun) Societies may, in time of peace, in accordance with their rational legislation, make use of the name and emblem of the Red Cross for their other activities which are in conformity with the principles laid down by the International Red Cross Conferences. When those activities are carried out in time of war, the conditions for the use of the emblem shall be such that it cannot be considered as conferring the protection of the Convention; the emblem shall be comparatively small in size and may not be placed on armlets or on the roofs of buildings.

Use of the emblems in the United States

A notable exception to this is the United States where, although the United States first ratified the Geneva Conventions in 1882, for 18 years no legislation was enacted to enact treaty obligations regarding the protection of the Red Cross symbol.

On June 6, 1900, the bill to charter the American National Red Cross (ARC) was signed into law. Section 4, which ultimately was codified as 18 U.S.C. §706, protected the Greek red cross symbol by making it a misdemeanor for any person or association to use the Red Cross name or emblem without the organization's permission. Penalties included imprisonment not to exceed one year and a fine between $1 and $500, payable to the ARC. There had been seven trademark registrations for Greek red crosses by entities unrelated to the Red Cross at the time the ARC was incorporated. The existence of these users was recognized in congressional discussion of the act. However, lawmakers took no action to prohibit the rights of these earlier users.

In 1905, when Congress was revising the ARC's charter, the issue of pre-existing rights to use the emblem was again raised. Lawmakers reiterated Congress' intent that the prohibitions on use of the Red Cross name and emblem did not make unlawful the use of the Greek red cross by those with otherwise established rights. However, these sentiments were again not reflected in the Red Cross charter revision. At the time of the 1905 revision, the number of trademark registrations with a Greek red cross had grown to 61, including several by Johnson & Johnson. Concerned over potential pre-emption, commercial users lobbied for codification of their existing trademark rights.

In 1910, Congress formally established that lawful use of the Red Cross name and emblem that began prior to Jan. 5, 1905, could continue, but only if that use was "for the same purpose and for the same class of goods." Later, the U.S. ratified the 1949 revisions to the Geneva Conventions with a specific reservation that pre-1905 Red Cross trademarks would not be disturbed as long as the Red Cross is not used on "aircraft, vessels, vehicles, buildings or other structures, or upon the ground", all of which are likely to be confused with military uses[14].

Until 2007, U.S. law only protected the Red Cross, and only permitted its use by the ARC and U.S. armed forces; though its use by non-U.S. organizations would normally be implied by the ARC's membership in IFRC and the standard protocols of the military and the Red Cross & Red Crescent movement, the ARC's withholding of IFRC dues from 2000 to 2006 over the Magen David Adom (MDA) issue raised concerns. Both to implement Protocol III (which had received advice and consent from the United States Senate in 2006; the U.S. formalized its ratification in March 2007) and to address these concerns, the Geneva Distinctive Emblems Protection Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-481) [2] was signed into law January 12, 2007, two days before Protocol III went into effect. The law, codified as 18 U.S.C. §706a, extended full legal protection to the Red Crescent and Red Crystal (but not the Red Lion and Sun) in the U.S., subject to private uses prior to the signing of Protocol III that cannot be confused with military uses; permitted the use of all appropriate emblems under the Conventions by the ICRC, the IFRC, all national Red Cross & Red Crescent societies (including MDA by this time), and "(t)he sanitary and hospital authorities of the armed forces of State Parties to the Geneva Conventions"; and permitted the United States Attorney General to obtain injunctions against improper use of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Crystal in the U.S.

U.S. law still does not specifically protect the right of military chaplains to use the emblems under the Geneva Conventions; however, military chaplains that are part of their armed forces' "sanitary and hospital authorities" would have the right to use the emblems in the U.S. The ARC and other Red Cross & Red Crescent entities also employ chaplains; they are entitled to use the emblems through their employment.

Johnson & Johnson's lawsuit against the American Red Cross about the emblem

On August 9, 2007, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) filed suit against the American Red Cross alleging trademark infringement.[15] The suit seeks to halt the placement of the Red Cross emblem on all first aid, safety and disaster preparedness products not specifically licensed by Johnson & Johnson. The suit also asks for the destruction of all currently existing non-J&J Red Cross emblem-bearing products of this type, and demands the American Red Cross pay punitive damages and J&J's legal fees.

J&J released a statement to the public on August 8, 2007 detailing its decision to file suit[16], claiming prior rights to the emblem. On the same date, the American Red Cross issued a press release of its own[17], stating some of the reasons behind its decision to license the Red Cross emblem to first aid and disaster preparedness product manufacturers. It issued a further press release two days later[18], refuting several of J&J's claims and asserting that "(t)he Red Cross has been selling first aid kits commercially in the United States since 1903."

In a statement, the Red Cross said it has worked since 2004 with several licensing partners to create first aid, preparedness and related products that bear the Red Cross emblem. The charity says that all money it receives from the sale of these products to consumers is reinvested in its humanitarian programs and services. "For a multi-billion dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statute that was created to protect the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross - simply so that J&J can make more money - is obscene," said Mark Everson, the chief executive of the charity.[19] Johnson & Johnson responded, stating that the Red Cross's commercial ventures were outside the scope of historically well-agreed usage, and were in direct violation of federal statutes[20].

See also


  1. ^ ICRC website — Press Release 06/65, 22-06-2006
  2. ^ BBC News (2007-01-14): Red Crystal gets official status
  3. ^ History of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) (IRCS website, in English)
  4. ^ IRCS website, in Persian
  5. ^ The Red Cross. Seiyaku. Retrieved on 2007-11-16.
  6. ^ António Martins (1999-03-05). International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
  7. ^ Protecting the Emblems in peacetime: the experiences of the British Red Cross Society. Retrieved on 2007-10-08.
  8. ^ Protection of the red cross and red crescent emblems and the repression of misuse
  9. ^ "The Red Cross Emblem: It may just be fun and games to you, but it means the world to us" Canadian Red Cross website, March 6, 2006
  10. ^ Australian law on emblems (ICRC website)
  11. ^ New Zealand law on emblems (ICRC website)
  12. ^ UK law on emblems (ICRC website)
  13. ^ 1st Geneva Convention. Chapter VII. Art 44.
  14. ^ U.S. reservations to the 1949 Geneva Conventions
  15. ^ "Red Cross Is Sued by J&J Over Signature Emblem" Wall Street Journal 9 Aug. 2007
  16. ^ "Johnson & Johnson Statement on Civil Complaint Against The American National Red Cross and Commercial Licenses" Business Wire 8 Aug. 2007
  17. ^ "J&J (NYSE: JNJ) Sues Red Cross Over Use of Red Cross Emblem", The American National Red Cross, 8 Aug. 2007
  18. ^ "American Red Cross Defends Use of Emblem and Mission", The American National Red Cross, 10 Aug. 2007
  19. ^
  20. ^ Johnson & Johnson Press Release. Statement on Civil Complaint Against The American National Red Cross. August 9, 2007.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Emblems_of_the_International_Red_Cross_and_Red_Crescent_Movement". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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