IRRC No. 300

Means of identification for protected medical transports

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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. The Second Geneva Convention, 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).

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