Footprints of Death: Cluster Bombs as Indiscriminate Weapons Under International Humanitarian Law

This Article applies these principles of discrimination to the real, rather than idealized, use and characteristics of cluster bombs. Briefly stated, these principles call upon parties to an armed conflict to distinguish between civilians and combatants and to weigh the military advantages of a particular weapon or type of attack against the harm it will do to civilians and civilian objects. This Article also considers briefly the global problem of cluster munitions and examines fundamental components of the discrimination principle as they apply to cluster bombs. As three specific case studies, it analyzes the use of cluster bombs by breakaway Serbs in Croatia in 1995, by NATO in the bombing campaign of 1999 in Serbia and Kosovo, and by Russia in the breakaway republic of Chechnya in 1994-96 and again in the renewal of the conflict beginning in late 1999. These case studies illustrate that the restraint of international humanitarian law has been insufficient to mitigate the well documented harm that ravages communities for months, years, and even decades after a conflict ends. Also examined are past efforts to ban or restrict the use of cluster bombs to discover whether lessons learned from the past can be helpful in current discussions concerning cluster bombs.