Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill [ Lords]

Part of Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) – in the House of Commons at 1:11 pm on 1st April 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 1:11 pm, 1st April 2009

There are two elements to my response to my hon. Friend's question. As I understand the Bill, the provision will permit the use of the red crystal alongside or in place of the red cross and red crescent, and will therefore provide an additional symbol that will attract international protection and the respect for that protective function by means of criminal sanctions for those who breach it and for those who, in the terms of the original convention, make "perfidious use" of it—in other words, those who use the protective symbol when they are engaged in military or terrorist operations.

The Bill also provides protection in British domestic law against the use of the red crystal symbol for any purpose other than to designate a genuinely protective humanitarian body—in our case, the British Red Cross. So, as I understand it, the legislation would outlaw the use of the red crystal for any kind of business or commercial purpose. Again, if I am mistaken, I am sure the Minister will intervene or address the point in her concluding remarks.

My understanding is that the additional protocol concerning the red crystal has taken a great many years to negotiate and that there have been many false starts. I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate, she will be able to spell out in a little more detail exactly how the additional protocol will finally allow the vexed issue of the red star of David or red shield of David—I have seen both terms used—to be treated in future.

My understanding is that, under the additional protocol, the red star of David will not be treated as on a par with the red cross, crescent or crystal, in that its display will not automatically invoke the right to protection which those other symbols guarantee, but that it will be open to Israeli and, if they so choose, other humanitarian organisations to use the red star of David as an additional indicative symbol of their humanitarian purpose, so that, for example, an Israeli ambulance or relief lorry might travel into an area where there might be a threat of violence displaying the red star of David on the side of the vehicle, but with the crystal clearly displayed on the roof of the vehicle as a signal to aircraft that it was entitled to international protection. That is my understanding, having read the briefing on the Bill, but if the Minister wishes to correct me, I am happy to let her do so.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website