The terms Red Cross and Red Crescent are often used as short names for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, or its two leading international organs, the ICRC and the IFRCS. This page is about the symbol itself, see respective articles for information about the organizations and movements.
The Red Cross
is a symbol which under the Geneva conventions
is to be placed on humanitarian
and medical vehicles and buildings to protect them from military attack. The Red Cross flag is not to be confused with the St George cross
which is the flag
and several other places. 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.
Originally only the Red Cross (being the flag of Switzerland reversed) was to be used as a symbol of the Geneva conventions, but Muslim nations (primarily the Ottoman Empire, later Turkey) objected to this, and as a result an additional symbol (the Red Crescent) was to be provided for. Later Persia (now Iran) managed to have a red lion and sun (the lion and sun being the symbol of Persia) added to the list of available symbols; though the symbol no longer being used by Iran has fallen into disuse in favour of the Red Crescent, Iran has in the past reserved the right to take it up again at any time.
Israel then requested the addition of a Red Star of David, arguing that since Christian and Muslim symbols were recognized the corresponding Jewish symbol should be as well. This symbol is the one currently used by Magen David Adom, but it is not recognized under international humanitarian law. The Red Cross movement has rejected this Israeli request, reasoning that if Jews (or another group) were to be given another symbol, there would be no end to the number of religious or other groups claiming a symbol for themselves. That would detract from the original intention of the Red Cross symbol, which was to be a single symbol to mark vehicles and buildings protected on humanitarian grounds.
In response, the Red Cross movement is in the process of developing a new symbol, which will be without any religious connontations and also easily recognizable on the battlefield; As of 2004 the most likely candidate is a red lozenge or diamond on a white background. Once the Red Cross movement has adopted the symbol it will then be presented to the State Parties to the Geneva Conventions for amendment of the treaties. However, it will only complement and not replace the existing list of symbols.
Use of the Red Cross
As provided for by the Geneva Convention, the red cross symbol is 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;
- Red Cross groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross; the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, formerly "the League of Red Cross Societies"; and the 181 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
The Geneva Convention obliged its signatories to prevent the unauthorized use of the name and emblem in wartime and peacetime in order to ensure universal respect for the symbol.
Nevertheless, the symbol, in various colours, is an international symbol indicating first aid, medical supplies, and the like.
The Anarchist Black Cross was originally called the "Anarchist Red Cross".
The band Redd Kross was originally called "Red Cross".