The red crystal was developed to offer an additional emblem of humanitarian protection. At times the red cross and red crescent have incorrectly been perceived as carrying religious or political connotations. This has threatened the ability of armed forces’ medical services and the Red Cross to offer humanitarian assistance in conflict situations.
The UK Government and British Red Cross played a major role in getting the crystal adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in 2005 which agreed the Third Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The Protocol, which currently has 52 States parties, came into force for the United Kingdom on 23 April 2010. As a result, the red crystal now has the same legal protection in the UK as the red cross and the red crescent.
Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa said:
‘The cross-party support that the implementing legislation received in both Houses of Parliament indicates the importance of this measure and we welcome the coming into force of the Additional Protocol.
It will assist not only the work of the medical services and religious personnel of the Armed Forces but also the work carried out in conflict zones by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
While stressing that we will do all we can to uphold and promote the excellent and historical reputation of the red cross emblem, we see this move as complementary, and the Government recognises the assistance given by the British Red Cross in this process and looks forward to further co-operation in the humanitarian field.’
The UK government is working with the British Red Cross to encourage more states to ratify the Protocol and increase world-wide recognition of the emblem.
Michael Meyer, Head of International Law at the British Red Cross, commented:
‘The red crystal will enhance protection to the victims of armed conflict and to those military medical and authorised humanitarian personnel who come to their aid.’
The principal emblem for the United Kingdom Defence Medical Services will remain the red cross.