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Red Cross, Red Crescent Call for More Respect for Emblem - 2003-12-06

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement warns that its emblem is under increasing attack by extremists and armed groups. More than 1,500 representatives attending an International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference in Geneva have adopted a resolution calling for the strengthening of worldwide respect for this symbol of international humanitarian law.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent says it hopes the adoption of this resolution will speed up action on admitting societies, which use different national emblems, as full members of the movement.

The most controversial case concerns Israel's Magen David Adom, which has been denied full membership because it wants to use the Star of David as its symbol. This is not allowed under the Geneva Conventions, which recognize only the red cross and red crescent as official emblems.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jacob Kellenberger, says the third protocol to the Geneva Conventions will have to be modified to grant greater universality to the emblem.

"It is quite clear that the third additional protocol does want to create a third emblem free of any religious, national and other connotations to make it possible for societies, which have a problem with existing emblems to become full members of the movement," he said. "And, one of these societies is Magen David Adom."

The Red Cross Movement was close to adopting the third protocol a few years ago. But the matter was put on hold when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict erupted into the second intifada. Red Cross officials agree that this issue will not be resolved until political conditions on the ground improve.

The president of Jordan's Red Crescent Society, Mohammed Al-Hadid, says the creation of a neutral emblem would serve to protect the movement's staff and volunteers, who are coming under increasing attack.

"We are losing quite a lot of number of delegates and volunteers in the field, and this is as a result of the abuse of the emblem, disrespect to the emblem, which is contravening the international humanitarian law," said Mohammed Al-Hadid. "And in some places, when we operate internationally, I think it would be easier for us when we work under the umbrella of an additional emblem, a new emblem that would not in the minds of some people have any religious, national or any kind of connotations. So, it would be safer."

Mr. Al-Hadid says societies that currently are using the red cross or red crescent emblems would continue to do so. However, he adds that those societies that find it difficult to use either of these emblems would be able to use the new, additional emblem proposed under the protocol.