[JURIST] US Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official websites] Thursday introduced [press release] a bill that would ban federal funds for the use, sale, or transfer of cluster munitions [FAS backgrounder; Cluster Munition Coalition advocacy website]. The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 [PDF text, via CR] would allow an exception for bombs to be used against "clearly defined military targets and not where civilians are known to be present." Introducing the bill on the Senate floor, Leahy said:
The Feinstein-Leahy bill does not prohibit the use or export of cluster munitions. Rather, it would set a standard for reliability that is the same as what the Pentagon now requires for new procurements of these weapons.The bill would also ban all cluster bombs falling below a 99 percent failure rate.
The President may waive this requirement if he certifies that doing so is vital to protect the security of the United States, and he submits a report describing the steps that will be taken to protect civilians and the failure rate of the cluster munitions to be used or sold.
Human Rights Watch praised the bill [press release], with one official commenting that it put the US at the "forefront of global efforts to eliminate weapons that have killed and maimed thousands of civilians." A similar bill sponsored by Feinstein and Leahy failed on the Senate floor [JURIST report] in September. Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [CMC backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977).