[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced [press release] on Friday that its researchers have proof that Russian forces have dropped cluster bombs on Georgian civilians [AP report] during the recent conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia [BBC report]. Cluster bombs release large numbers of smaller explosives which spread out before detonating upon impact, a design meant to maximize bodily injury of a large group of people. On Tuesday, Georgia filed a complaint [text, PDF; press release, PDF] against Russia with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website], alleging that invading Russian troops have also engaged in the murder, rape and mass displacement of civilians [JURIST report]. Russian officials have stated that they have their own evidence showing that Georgian forces have committed war crimes.
At the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions [official website] in May, diplomats agreed on a draft treaty [text, PDF; JURIST report] banning the use, manufacture, and stockpiling of cluster munitions [ICRC materials; JURIST news archive]. No representatives were sent to the conference from the US, China, Russia, Israel, India, or Pakistan, whose governments collectively make up the world's largest producers and users of cluster bombs. A loophole [HRW press release] allows continued military and other cooperation between parties and non-parties to the treaty, which must still be ratified by individual signatory nations before entering into full effect.