General findings andconclusions: a low thresholdand a broad conceptThe term ‘a serious violation of international humanrights law’ sets a low threshold. Though it coversviolations of human rights that are internationalcrimes, its scope is much broader and includesviolations of social, economic, and cultural as wellas civil and political rights.In terms of criteria, it refers to a range of humanrights violations and takes account of:ƒ The nature of obligations engaged.ƒ The scale/magnitude of the violations.ƒ The status of victims (in certain circumstances).ƒ The impact of the violations.International practice indicates that many factorsinfluence, and no single factor determines, whethera human rights violation is ‘serious’. Context mustbe taken into account.International practiceCompetent international bodies tend to interpretthe notion of ‘serious violation’ broadly. A review ofdifferent human rights systems reveals a significantdegree of overlap in their interpretation of what itcovers. Competent authorities concur in sayingthat the following violations are ‘serious’:ƒ Arbitrary arrests and detention.ƒ Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilianobjects in situations of armed conflict.ƒ Enforced disappearance.ƒ Excessive use of force by police forces.ƒ Forced and large-scale population displacement.ƒ Indiscriminate attacks in situations of armedconflict.ƒ Rape and other sexual violence.ƒ Torture and other cruel, inhuman, ordegrading treatment.ƒ Violations of the right to life, includingmurder and massacres, and extrajudicialand summary executions.ƒ Violations of the right to property, forexample the destruction of houses andinfrastructure.They largely concur in saying that the followingviolations may be considered ‘serious’:ƒ Attacks on hospitals and health facilitiesand, more generally, failure to respect theright to health.ƒ Attacks on schools and education facilitiesand, more generally, failure to respect theright to education (including prolongedclosure of schools).ƒ Blockades.ƒ Discrimination.ƒ Excessive use of force by police or othersecurity forces, for example againstdemonstrators.ƒ Failure by states to address poverty andinadequate living standards.ƒ Failure by states to inquire into allegedviolations of human rights.ƒ Failure by states to provide conditions ofdetention that meet international norms.ƒ Forced evictions.ƒ Gender-based violence.ƒ Obstruction of access to humanitarian aid.ƒ Pillage in situations of armed conflict.ƒ Recruitment of children into armed forces orgroups.ƒ Restrictions on movement.ƒ Sexual and other forms of violence againstchildren.ƒ Slave and forced labour.ƒ Use of civilians as ‘human shields’ insituations of armed conflict.ƒ Violations of the right to freedom ofexpression and freedom of association.ƒ Violations of the right to self-determination(exemplified by illegal settlements inoccupied territories or military coups).The Annex lists other circumstances that have beendescribed less frequently as serious violations.When considering these lists, it is important tobear in mind the specific character of humanrights bodies. They have limited mandates and thecompetence of each supervisory mechanism isgoverned by the instrument it supervises.


Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
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