The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 provide that medical
personnel and equipment shall in general be identified by the distinctive emblem
of the red cross or red crescent.¹ The Second Geneva
Convention,2 applicable to the victims of conflict at sea, specifies
that the exterior surfaces of hospital ships and smaller craft used for medical
purposes shall be white and recommends that the parties to the conflict use "the
most modern methods" to facilitate identification of medical transports at sea
(Art. 43). It is also recommended that medical aircraft should be clearly marked
with both the distinctive emblem and their national colours on their lower,
upper and lateral surfaces. They should moreover be provided with "any other
markings or means of identification" agreed upon between the belligerents from
the outbreak or during the course of hostilities (First Convention, Art. 36, and
Second Convention, Art. 39).
¹ (First) Geneva Convention for the
Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the
Field of 12 August 1949, Arts 35-38.
2 (Second) Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of
the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea of
12 August 1949, Arts 22, 24, 26, 27 and 43.
The use of most of the means of identification referred to in
this paper is discussed in Annex I to Protocol I of 8 June 1977 additional to
the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
In 1990, a meeting of technical experts convened by the ICRC on
the basis of Article 98 of Protocol I proceeded to review Annex I. The main
purpose of the proposed amendments was to incorporate into Annex I of Protocol I
technical provisions already adopted by the competent international
organizations. The consultation procedure was concluded in 1993 and the
amendments proposed by the experts entered into force on 1 March
19943 for all States party to Protocol I, with the exception, for the
relevant amendments, of those States which made declarations of
3 See International Review of the Red
Cross (IRRC). No. 298, January-February 1994. pp. 27-41.
4 Sweden for Articles 8 and 9 and Jordan for Article