Red Cross Says Theater Nurse Costume Violates The Geneva Conventions

from the this-is-torture dept

Joe Publius alerts us to a story that I had to check multiple times to make sure wasn’t satire. Apparently the British Red Cross got upset that nurse the costume used in a small theater production of a pantomime of Robin Hood (don’t ask) included the standard red cross on the hat and the tunic as seen below:

According to the Red Cross, this was an unauthorized use of the Red Cross emblem, which represented a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

“We have no desire to be the villains of the pantomime or to appear heavy handed, but we do have a very serious obligation to protect the Red Cross emblem.

“The emblem is a special sign of neutrality and protection recognised by all sides during armed conflicts.

“Misuse of that emblem – even when done in an innocent and light-hearted manner – has to be addressed. Repeated and widespread misuse of the Red Cross emblem could dilute its neutrality and its ability to protect.”

I don’t buy that at all. It’s not like someone was going to get confused by this use in a pantomime production of Robin Hood. The idea that this dilutes the legitimate symbol seems like a huge stretch. Either way, the production swapped the red cross out for green crosses, as if that really makes any difference.

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Comments on “Red Cross Says Theater Nurse Costume Violates The Geneva Conventions”

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I specifically refused to wear a red cross while in Iraq for a very simple reason: It doesn’t protect the wearer from anything unless it is recognized by all the combatants. Most military medical personnel in combat zones won’t wear them and I think its a joke to put them on ambulances and hospitals. Just gives the bad guys an aiming point.


Re: Re:

We were told not to wear the red cross as it makes you a primary target.

Iraq signed the Geneva Convention sections I-IV in 1956, but they could certainly argue that those who signed it were “pre-Sadam” and thus Iraq was no longer interested in upholding the requirements of GC. Terrorist organizations and Jihadists certainly aren’t bound to the rules, so they aren’t required to follow the rules either. As such, the US considers them “Non-Lawful Combatants”, and the rules are different than when fighting “Lawful Combatants.” Certainly nobody is expected to receive special treatment for wearing a red cross, and no quarter will likely be given to someone who is associated with the military with one.

I seem to remember that during WWII, Japanese soldiers would purposefully shoot corpsmen, because they reasoned that they could kill more people that way, since corpsmen would often rush to the aid of wounded soldiers, and without corpsmen, those soldiers would often die.


Great. Now they’re going to get sued by Green Cross International because someone might mistake them for nurses who support environmental responsibility.

This is the problem with IP laws. Suddenly depicting reality or referencing the way things actually are violates someone else’s trademark or copyright.

You can’t reveal that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes anymore because someone thinks they own the concept of royal nudity (British tabloids, maybe?).

Your truth violates my copyright!

Joe Publiussays:

Re: Re:

remember this is not an IP suit but the fact that they are breaking a treaty ratified by some countries to no kill medical personnel.

On a serious note, and to reinforce my previous statement, that’s why this story appealed to me more than the standard “Trademark misuse” story. Again, doesn’t change my opinion, but it was an interesting dimension.


I’d think that a red cross would be a generic symbol of the medical profession. I could understand (maybe, maaaaaaybe) limiting its use in the professional field, and certainly when soliciting donations, but the fact is that the symbol has become an emblem for all medical systems in some places. Do they honestly expect the public to disassociate that symbol?

Also, thanks for reminding me not to do any math with red ink.

The Mighty Buzzardsays:


The plus shaped cross, yes. A red one, no. They’re usually pretty good about making sure it’s blue or green or a big H instead of using the Red Cross cross.

What I don’t get is film and stage have traditionally been exempt from this. Think M.A.S.H. or any number of war movies.

Not that it would really matter for US medical personnel lately. None of our current enemies respect any aspect of the Geneva Convention. Might as well be the Red Crosshairs for all the good it does.

Re: Re:

I was just thinking the same thing about TV and movies and more specifically: video games. Duke Nukem 3D uses the red cross emblem to denote all health pickups. And that game only springs to mind because I’ve been playing it a lot lately. If my memory serves me correctly, a red cross has been used to designate health items redundantly in countless video games.

Joe Publiussays:

A symbol and it's sanctity

When I first read the article, I thought, Hey, this is right up Techdirt’s alley, only really strange!, and I’m actually a little surprised that it made the muster.

When I first pondered the story, I too thought of the Red Cross response in terms of Trademark, the misguided idea that every use has to be defended or else the mark is diluted. But I decided that though still misguided, they and Convention by extension, were motivated by their own impression of the sanctity and value of the Red Cross as a symbol.

In the end that motivation doesn’t convince me that, simply because if the symbol really has that kind of value, people will know when the use is serious or not, and no amount of use in pantomimes or other movies will affect that.

Matt Ronassays:


It’s reasons like this that some people are hesitant to donate money. I understand there is always some type of overhead to running an organization, especially one as large as Red Cross, but does the money they have really need to go to overhead like such as silly cases like this? They could use it to save more lives, and instead they’re wasting time and money…


I heard this news on the radio as the story broke last week. Apparently, the only reason the RC picked up on this was that a member of the RC was attending the theater to watch the production at the time. I’m sure their own sense of self-importance was greatly elevated by the exercise… which, personally, seems to be the whole point, to me at least.

The radio program that followed was filled with callers informing that they had cancelled their RC subscriptions.

Hurrah RC…. you complete and utter morons!

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