Red Cross Logo Played Part in Colombian Hostage Rescue

It turns out that a logo helped save 15 people in Colombia held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe admitted Wednesday that the symbol of the neutral Red Cross organization was used on the garb worn by the rescuers.

All’s fair in war, right? Well…turns out that Wrongly using the Red Cross logo is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. The man was a member of the Colombian military intelligence team involved in the daring rescue, Uribe said in an address carried on national TV and radio. The president said that as the constitutional head of the armed forces, he takes full political responsibility for what he described as a slip-up.

The reason for protecting the symbol of the red cross is obvious. If combatants get the idea that opposing forces are using the red cross as a decoy—say, to put atop an ammunition dump—instead of reserving it for medical workers and to put atop hospital tents and buildings to protect the wounded, the symbol loses its efficacy as a neutral symbol. Combatants will have license to go after anyone or anything with a red cross, including hospitals.

One can certainly argue that terrorists aren’t likely to adhere to such conventions, so neither should the “good guys.” But of the “good guys” disregard the conventions, then so will any opposing force whether its an army or terror group.

Photographs of the Colombian military intelligence-led team that spearheaded the rescue, shown to CNN, which first reported the incident, by a confidential military source, show one man wearing a bib with the Red Cross symbol. The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the (FARC) rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson last year filed suit against the Red Cross for use of the red-cross logo on licensed goods—canvas bags and tees shirts and the like. J&J doesn’t mind sharing the logo, it seems, but it draws the line at merchandising it, even if the proceeds do go back into the Red Cross.

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