Sunday, January 14, 2007

'Red Crystal' Debuts To Protect Medics

The Red Crystal will make its debut tomorrow as an additional emblem that can be used to protect relief workers in combat in cases where they don't wish to use either the Red Cross or Red Crescent. But it is unlikely to be widely displayed in the near future. The emblem was designed as part of complicated, long-running negotiations to include Israel in the Red Cross movement without giving the red shield used by Magen David Adom society -- similar to the star on the Israeli flag -- the same status as the cross and crescent, which have been used by medics on the battlefield for more than a century. Some countries feared adding the Israeli society's symbol to the list of protective emblems would open the door to proliferation of such symbols, potentially reducing the recognition and protection of any of them.But Red Cross officials conceded yesterday it will take time before the crystal -- a red square frame standing on one corner -- will be widely enough known that medics will be able to work under it on the battlefield without fear of being targeted by one side or the other. "We have no indication at the moment anybody is going to start using it" immediately, said Antonella Notari, chief spokesperson of the international committee of the Red Cross. "It's legally now a protective emblem, but there's a lot of work to be done for it to be in reality and concretely a protective emblem because it needs to be known in the field and respected," she told reporters. The treaty authorizing the new symbol is entering into force six months after Switzerland and Norway became the first two countries to ratify the accord aimed at including Israel's Magen David Adom society in the Red Cross movement. So far 84 countries have signed the treaty, and nine have ratified it.