Practice of the UN systemUN Security CouncilThe UN Security Council speaks of ‘serious’,‘grave’, and ‘gross’ violations of human rights aswell as ‘abuses’ of human rights, but its practiceis not consistent.144 It tends to use ‘grave’ and‘serious’ as synonyms.145Of Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, it spoke of ‘serious’human rights abuses and crimes, listing extrajudicialkilling, maiming, arbitrary arrest and abduction ofcivilians, enforced disappearances, acts of revenge,sexual and gender-based violence, includingagainst children, and the alleged recruitment anduse of children in the conflict.146 In other statementsconcerning the same situation, however, it listedidentical or similar crimes but described them onlyas ‘human rights violations’.147UN usage does not imply that the omission of‘serious’ means that a violation is not grave;violations normally considered ‘grave’ or ‘serious’may be called simply ‘human rights violations’ inUN reports.The Security Council seems to consider thestatus of victims when it assesses the gravity ofa violation. This can be seen from the Monitoringand Reporting Mechanism (MRM),148 which theSecurity Council oversees. The MRM monitors six‘grave violations’ against children in situations ofarmed conflict: the killing or maiming of children;recruitment or use of children as soldiers; rape andother grave sexual abuse of children; abduction ofchildren; attacks against schools or hospitals; anddenial of humanitarian access for children.149Universal Periodic ReviewThe practice of states throws light on how the UNand UN human rights bodies understand the scopeof ‘serious’ human rights violations. In particular,the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), an inter-statereview mechanism, provides insights into the opiniojuris of UN member states.A review of recommendations so far suggeststhat the following violations tend to be viewedas ‘serious’: summary execution,150 extrajudicialkillings,151 destruction of homes,152 torture, illtreatment,153 failure to provide food and healthcare in prisons,154 sexual violence,


The intent to violate the norm in question.
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