The Colombian government issued a formal apology to the ICRC for the incident, which the president called an unauthorised error by a nervous soldier.

Use of the Red Cross symbol for a military operation violates the first Geneva Convention because it would damage the relief group's image of neutrality in conflicts and could endanger medical personnel using the symbol.

Red Cross reminder

Yves Heller, a Bogota-based spokesman for the Red Cross, said: "Parties to the conflict must respect the Red Cross emblem at all times and under all circumstances".

However, Heller said the incident will not effect Red Cross deployment in the country.

"We will continue working in the field in Colombia," he said.

Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate, and the other hostages were rescued in a daring operation by the Colombian military.

Their captors from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) were tricked into handing them over to the intelligence officials disguised as aid workers.

While Betancourt was freed after six years in captivity, some had been helt hostage for as long as 10 years.