Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials on Tuesday appealed to people not to use the Red Cross name or emblem without the organisation’s approval.
One official said doing so would “have wider consequences for the nation and society” and affect humanitarian efforts, with legal action brought against those who harmed the organisation.
The appeal was made by the CRC’s First Deputy Secretary-General Men Neary Sophak and the ICRC’s Head of Mission in Cambodia Roman Paramonov at a meeting on international humanitarian law. It was attended by nearly 100 journalists in Phnom Penh.
Neary Sophak said incorrect appropriation of the Red Cross name and emblem harmed the organisation, having a negative impact on their national and international humanitarian missions.
“If someone takes the Red Cross name and emblem, say to use when transporting weapons or in drug trafficking, it will cause problems. It will affect the Red Cross as an institution and have wider consequences for the nation and society,” she said.
Neary Sophak said those who incorrectly used the organisation’s emblems should be punished in accordance with the Royal Decree on the Use and Protection of the Red Cross or Red Crescent Emblem, which was signed into law by the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in May 2002.
The decree orders that the Cambodian authorities shall ensure strict implementation of rules on the management and use of the Red Cross emblem and name, prohibiting any unauthorised use.
Article 11 of the decree states that violators “will be punished in accordance with the law”, with Article 14 stipulating that the courts “shall have jurisdiction to order the seizure of objects and any material marked in violation of the present royal decree”.
The Red Cross emblem, an inversion of the Swiss flag, was designed by the organisation’s co-founder Henri Dunant in 1863 and was adopted as an international symbol of humanitarian and medical personnel at the first Geneva Convention in 1864.
The Red Crescent emblem, more commonly associated with Muslim countries, came into usage in 1876 after Ottoman Empire soldiers felt the cross was reminiscent of the Christian crusaders in the Middle Ages.
Paramonov, also speaking at the event, said the Red Cross emblem was created to protect humanity.
“The emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent enjoy full respect under international law in states that are party to the 4th Geneva Convention 1949,” he said.
During peacetime, he said, only certain institutions are permitted to use the emblem, including military medical staff, Red Cross and Red Crescent national associations, the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“Any wrong use of the emblem shall be punished as it decreases the value of its protection and negatively impacts the effectiveness of humanitarian aid,” Paramonov said.