17 Jul 2008

Apology after Red Cross worn in Betancourt rescue

12:47 pm on 17 July 2008

Colombia's president has confimed that a Red Cross symbol was worn by a member of the military rescue mission that freed 15 hostages from Farc rebels.

Alvaro Uribe said he had apologised to the Red Cross for the error, made by a nervous soldier acting against orders.

Misuse of the Red Cross emblem is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law.

Rescuers tricked rebels into releasing former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, 40, and 14 other hostages by posing as international aid workers. Ms Betancourt spent six years in the hands of the Colombian rebels.

Mr Uribe's acknowledgement followed reports that the Red Cross emblem had being displayed on clothing worn by Colombian intelligence officers during the rescue on 2 July.

Mr Uribe said that just one member of the team had worn the emblem "contradicting official orders" because he was nervous about the operation.

He said the name of the official would not be disclosed "because we do not want to affect his career. We regret that this occurred."

Falsely portraying military personnel as Red Cross workers is against the Geneva Conventions because it could put humanitarian workers at risk when carrying out missions in war zones.

It also undermines the neutrality of the Red Cross.