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A distinctive blue and white graphical symbol — designed to be visible from great distances, even from satellite photos — is the only type of marking recognized under international law for protecting cultural property during a period of armed conflict.  

This Blue Shield is to cultural property what the Red Cross or Red Crescent is to people. The symbol means: "this requires protection."

Use of the Blue Shield is defined in Articles 16 and 17 of The 1954 Hague Convention.

      Article 16. Emblem of the Convention

      "1. The distinctive emblem of the Convention shall take
      the form of a shield, pointed below, per saltire blue and
      white (a shield consisting of a royal-blue square, one of
      the angles of which forms the point of the shield, and
      of a royal-blue triangle above the square, the space on
      either side being taken up by a white triangle).

      2. The emblem shall be used alone, or repeated three
      times in a triangular formation (one shield below),
      under the conditions provided for in Article 17."




("Per saltire" describes a particular type of heraldic shield design, with two lines that criss-cross in the middle, forming four triangle shapes; east and west triangles are always white; north and south triangles are always a bold color such as red or blue. Royal blue is the color used for the 1954 Hague Convention blue shield symbol.)












 




Article 17. Use of the Emblem

"1. The distinctive emblem repeated three times may be used only as a means of identification of:

   (a) immovable cultural property under special protection;

   (b) the transport of cultural property under the conditions
        provided for in Article 12 and Article 13;

   (c) improvised refuges, under the conditions provided for
        in the Regulations for the execution of the Convention.

2. The distinctive emblem may be used alone only as a means of identification of:

    (a) cultural property not under special protection;

    (b) the persons responsible for the duties of control in
         accordance with the Regulations for the execution
         of the Convention;

    (c) the personnel engaged in the protection of cultural
         property;

    (d) the identity cards mentioned in the Regulations for the
         execution of the Convention.

3. During an armed conflict, the use of the distinctive emblem in any other cases than those mentioned in the preceding paragraphs of the present Article, and the use for any purpose whatever of a sign resembling the distinctive emblem, shall be forbidden.

4. The distinctive emblem may not be placed on any immovable cultural property unless at the same time there is displayed an authorization duly dated and signed by the competent authority of the High Contracting Party."




Note: cultural property subject to protection under The 1954 Hague Convention may, or may not, be marked with the blue and white
shield emblem.
Article 4, section 3(5), of the Convention states that
"if one State Party has failed to comply with Article 3 by not safeguarding its cultural property, by clearly marking it, this failure does not mean that another State Party can evade its obligations under Article 4 to show respect and avoid causing harm to
cultural property within the territory of another State Party to the Convention."