A member of the military rescue mission that freed 15 hostages from Farc rebels, wore a Red Cross symbol, confirmed Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president. He said that the error has been made by a nervous soldier acting against orders, and apologised to the Red Cross for it.
Misuse of the Red Cross emblem is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law.
Rebels were tricked by rescuers, who posed as international aid workers, in order to release Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages.
Reports said that during the rescue, on 2 July, the Red Cross emblem had being displayed on clothing worn by Colombian intelligence officers, which provoked president Uribe’s acknowledgement.
He said that just one member of the team was nervous about the operation, therefore had worn the emblem “contradicting official orders”.
“Because we do not want to affect his career”, the name of the official would not e disclosed, said the president, who added : “We regret that this occurred.”
As it could put humanitarian workers at risk when carrying out missions in war zones, it is against the Geneva Conventions to falsely portraying military personnel as Red Cross workers. It also undermines the neutrality of the Red Cross.
The organisation was pleased that Mr Uribe had said that the use of the emblem had been a mistake, Red Cross spokesman Florian Westphal told the BBC.
“For us it’s important that this has cleared up the situation to an extent, because obviously what we wanted to make clear all along is that first of all we played no part in this operation, and secondly that it’s extremely important that the Red Cross emblem is respected as a protective sign for humanitarian activities that aim to help victims of armed conflict”, he said.