User:SaMi/Analysis of IHL Symbols

From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Jump to: navigation, search

The template {{IHL Symbol}} (see below, as of April 2010) is intended to be used to mark all images show any of the symbols protected by international humanitarian law (IHL). As of April 2010, all images containing the template are added to Category:Symbols regulated by international humanitarian law. This essay intends to analyse the current variety of usages of {{IHL Symbol}}, and to point out the difficulties that are faced by such a simple way to inform about legal restrictions on the use of the said images. This will be done by identifying different symbols restricted by IHL, finding out the relevant legislation concerning their use, pointing out how the fulfills meets its purpose of informing about such legislation, and suggesting changes to improve the current template and Commons policies and guidelines.

The use of the symbol shown in this image is regulated by certain international treaties, particularly the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their additional protocols of 1977 and 2005, as well as other rules of International Humanitarian Law either in written agreements or by long-standing customs. Misuse of this symbol is prohibited by these treaties as well as by national law in all countries which have ratified them. These restrictions are independent of the copyright status of the depiction shown here.

català | dansk | Deutsch | English | español | suomi | français | Bahasa Indonesia | italiano | 日本語 | македонски | Plattdüütsch | Nederlands | norsk bokmål | polski | русский | ไทย | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | +/−

Background[edit]

This section requires expansion.

Basic types of IHL symbols[edit]

All of the IHL symbols are essentially of one of the following types:[1]

  1. w:Protective sign
  2. a b c Defined in article 38 and 53 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; August 12, 1949
  3. Defined in article 2 of the Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (Protocol III), 8 December 2005
  4. Defined in article 53 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; August 12, 1949
  5. Defined in article 66 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts; June 8, 1977
  6. Defined in article 23 of the Geneva Conventions relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; August 12, 1949
  7. Defined in article 6 of annex I to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War; August 12, 1949
  8. Defined in article 32 of the Hague Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land; July 29, 1899
  9. Defined in article 3 of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel; December 9, 1994
  10. Defined in article 3 of the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments; April 15, 1935
  11. a b Defined in article 16 of the Convention for the Protection of cultural property in the Event of Armed Conflict; May 14, 1954
  12. Defined in article 56 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts; June 8, 1977


As of April 2010, of these the arms of Switzerland and the emblems of the United Nations are not marked with {{IHL Symbol}}. Of these symbols, there does not exist any images featuring the acronyms for prisoner of war camps, so they are not marked either, naturally.

Relevant legislation restricting use of the emblems[edit]

Symbol International United States
red cross Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; August 12, 1949: [1]
44. With the exception of the cases mentioned in the following paragraphs of the present Article, the emblem of the red cross on a white ground and the words " Red Cross" or " Geneva Cross " may not be employed, either in time of peace or in time of war, except to indicate or to protect the medical units and establishments, the personnel and material protected by the present Convention and other Conventions dealing with similar matters. The same shall apply to the emblems mentioned in Article 38, second paragraph, in respect of the countries which use them. The National Red Cross Societies and other societies designated in Article 26 shall have the right to use the distinctive emblem conferring the protection of the Convention only within the framework of the present paragraph.
53. The use by individuals, societies, firms or companies either public or private, other than those entitled thereto under the present Convention, of the emblem or the designation " Red Cross " or " Geneva Cross " or any sign or designation constituting an imitation thereof, whatever the object of such use, and irrespective of the date of its adoption, shall be prohibited at all times.
18 U.S.C. § 706. Red Cross: [2]
Whoever wears or displays the sign of the Red Cross or any insignia colored in imitation thereof for the fraudulent purpose of inducing the belief that he is a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross; or
Whoever, whether a corporation, association or person, other than the American National Red Cross and its duly authorized employees and agents and the sanitary and hospital authorities of the armed forces of the United States, uses the emblem of the Greek red cross on a white ground, or any sign or insignia made or colored in imitation thereof or the words "Red Cross" or "Geneva Cross" or any combination of these words -
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
red crescent see red cross 18 U.S.C. § 706a. Geneva distinctive emblems [3]
(a) Whoever wears or displays the sign of the Red Crescent or the Third Protocol Emblem (the Red Crystal), or any insignia colored in imitation thereof for the fraudulent purpose of inducing the belief that he is a member of or an agent for an authorized national society using the Red Crescent or the Third Protocol Emblem, the International Committee of the Red Cross, or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both.
(b) Except as set forth in section[1] (c) and (d), whoever, whether a corporation, association, or person, uses the emblem of the Red Crescent or the Third Protocol Emblem on a white ground or any sign or insignia made or colored in imitation thereof or the designations "Red Crescent" or "Third Protocol Emblem" shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both.
red lion and sun see red cross N/A
third protocol emblem Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (Protocol III), 8 December 2005: [4]
Article 6 - Prevention and repression of misuse
1. The provisions of the Geneva Conventions and, where applicable, the 1977 Additional Protocols, governing prevention and repression of misuse of the distinctive emblems shall apply equally to the third Protocol emblem. In particular, the High Contracting Parties shall take measures necessary for the prevention and repression, at all times, of any misuse of the distinctive emblems mentioned in Articles 1 and 2 and their designations, including the perfidious use and the use of any sign or designation constituting an imitation thereof.
see red crescent
arms of Switzerland Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; August 12, 1949: [5]
53. -- By reason of the tribute paid to Switzerland by the adoption of the reversed Federal colours, and of the confusion which may arise between the arms of Switzerland and the distinctive emblem of the Convention, the use by private individuals, societies or firms, of the arms of the Swiss Confederation, or of marks constituting an imitation thereof, whether as trademarks or commercial marks, or as parts of such marks, or for a purpose contrary to commercial honesty, or in circumstances capable of wounding Swiss national sentiment, shall be prohibited at all times.
18 U.S.C. § 708. Swiss Confederation coat of arms: [6]
Whoever, whether a corporation, partnership, unincorporated company, association, or person within the United States, willfully uses as a trade mark, commercial label, or portion thereof, or as an advertisement or insignia for any business or organization or for any trade or commercial purpose, the coat of arms of the Swiss Confederation, consisting of an upright white cross with equal arms and lines on a red ground, or any simulation thereof, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
international distinctive sign of civil defence Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977: [7]
Art 66. Identification -- 4. The international distinctive sign of civil defence is an equilateral blue triangle on an orange ground when used for the protection of civil defence organizations, their personnel, buildings and matériel and for civilian shelters.
-- 8. The High Contracting Parties and the Parties to the conflict shall take the measures necessary to supervise the display of the international distinctive sign of civil defence and to prevent and repress any misuse thereof.
 ?
the letters "PG" or "PW" and "IC" Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949: [8]
23. -- Whenever military considerations permit, prisoner of war camps shall be indicated in the day-time by the letters PW or PG, placed so as to be clearly visible from the air. The Powers concerned may, however, agree upon any other system of marking. Only prisoner of war camps shall be marked as such.
 ?
marking for Hospital and safety zones N/A [9]  ?
white flag N/A [10]  ?
emblem of the United Nations N/A [11]  ?
distinctive flag for monuments and cultural institutions N/A [12]  ?
distinctive marking of cultural property Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Hague, 14 May 1954: [13]
17.3. During an armed conflict, the use of the distinctive emblem in any other cases than those mentioned in the preceding paragraphs of the present Article, and the use for any purpose whatever of a sign resembling the distinctive emblem, shall be forbidden.
17.4. The distinctive emblem may not be placed on any immovable cultural property unless at the same time there is displayed an authorization duly dated and signed by the competent authority of the High Contracting Party.
N/A [14]
special sign for works and installations containing dangerous forces N/A [15]  ?

Problems of {{IHL Symbol}}[edit]

As pointed out, the use of some of the IHL symbols is not prohibited or restricted. This brings out the first problem in the current wording of the template: "The use of the symbol shown in this image is regulated by certain international treaties, -- Misuse of this symbol is prohibited by these treaties as well as by national law in all countries which have ratified them." Well, in reality, they're not. While all of these symbols are recognised in international law for a purpose, often they just don't have legal protection, and may not even need one. Of course, there are some imaginable restrictions on any of the symbols: in a war, you just cannot print out a white flag, give it to someone and start shooting it. But that is not anywhere near a relevant restriction for a random Commons user.

Another problem is the vague legal description of the regulations. The template mentions as relevant international treaties the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their additional protocols of 1977 and 2005. It also has a reference to other "rules" of IHL. Here the problem is that, for example, the 1907 Hague Convention is not relevant for any of the said symbols, and the restrictions on the use of the individual symbols are so different. It's important to mention that the restrictions of the international treaties are extended to national legislations of the state parties. The definition "Misuse of this symbol is prohibited by these treaties as well as by national law in all countries which have ratified them" is problematic as well, because in most cases, the wording and implications of the national legislation may differ from the treaty, plus the possibility that a state party of a treaty has not implemented the restrictions in national legislation even if the treaty requires it.

When compared to other restriction tags, {{IHL Symbol}} is weak. Apart from it being the only (?) one with 80% width, and visually also otherwise different from the others, this template fails to discuss the concerned issue adequately. Take {{Nazi symbol}} for comparison. That template clearly states what kind of symbol is discussed, what restrictions apply to it and correctly asserts that its use is illegal in some countries. Now that is what the {{IHL Symbol}} should be like!

Conclusion: change is needed[edit]

As can be seen from the reasons provided, it can be concluded that {{IHL Symbol}} is in a terrible need of change. As this is labelled as an "essay", I perhaps should include proper evaluation of why this is the conclusion, but because I'm too lazy to, it suffices to only spell out some of the needed changes.

The basic layout of the template should follow the other similar templates, and for this purpose, the layout currently used in {{Nazi symbol}} is good. The same is used for other templates as well.

The different kind of IHL Symbols have very different legal protection, as they are used for very different purposes. This is the reason why template {{IHL Symbol}} could be abandoned completely and replaced with more specific tags for the individual symbols. These new templates should outline the reason for protection very shortly, the relevant international treaty, the US legislation and references to legislation of other countries or the ICRC national implementation database if possible. Translation would then be important and require a lot of effort.

There should also be a consensus about where to apply the tags. As of April 2010, {{IHL Symbol}} is used for drawings of IHL Symbols, their derivatives, similar drawings, images of the symbols, and images of stamps, traffic signs, medals etc. featuring the symbols. It should be carefully considered what to do with each of these: even if the image is okay in the country of origin, it maybe unlawful in the US. For some of these (etc. stamps and traffic signs) specific tags could be developed.

What I suggest is that the new IHL Symbol tags should be like this:

Legal disclaimer

This image shows (or resembles) a symbol that is defined as a protective sign in [name of the treaty] (article [no.]). Its [kind of use] is restricted/prohibited by international and/or national law.

In the United States, the applicable law is [the applicable US law], in other countries [reference to laws in other countries].


[language links]


This is a Wikimedia Commons user page.

If you find this page on any site other than Wikimedia Commons, you are viewing a mirror site. Be aware that the page may be outdated, and that the user this page belongs to may have no personal affiliation with any site other than Wikimedia Commons itself. The original page is located at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:SaMi/Analysis_of_IHL_Symbols.


azərbaycanca | български | বাংলা | čeština | Deutsch | Deutsch (Sie-Form)‎ | English | Esperanto | español | فارسی | suomi | français | galego | Հայերեն | Bahasa Indonesia | italiano | 日本語 | ქართული | 한국어 | македонски | മലയാളം | Bahasa Melayu | Nederlands | polski | português | português do Brasil | русский | shqip | slovenščina | svenska | ไทย | українська | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−

Wikimedia Commons