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Misuse of Red Cross Emblem: Another Kind of War Crime

These days, most discussions about war crimes bring to mind current or former Bush Administration officials like John Yoo, or even Vice President Cheney, for their endorsement of the use of torture in military interrogations overseas in violation of the Geneva Convention.  However, today's news brings mention of a somewhat more obscure war crime known as perfidy:  the deceptive or abusive use of the Red Cross emblem.

The Associated Press is reporting that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe acknowledged that his army used the Red Cross emblem in its bloodless July 2 rescue of 15 hostages.  According to Uribe, an army official wore a vest with the red cross emblem because he was nervous about the operation with so many rebels on the scene.  Unfortunately, deceptive use of the Red Cross emblem violates the Geneva Convention.  Lawyers for the two rebels captured confirm that they had been tricked by the soldiers' use of the Red Cross emblem.   

The Red Cross responded to abuse of its emblem swiftly explaining that "The respect of the emblem is crucial so the ICRC can bring help to people affected by the conflicts in Colombia or elsewhere."  However, Colombia's general prosecutor Mario Iguaran said he believed the act of "perfidy" could not be applied in the hostage-rescue case, where the objective was not to use trickery to attack the other party but merely to rescue hostages.  No word yet on whether the Red Cross will pursue further action.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 17, 2008 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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