In recent years the UN Security Council has on numerous occasions handled situations involving gross human rights violations. In order to be able to take the action considered necessary the Security Council has applied the notion of ``threat to the peace'' in Article 39 of the UN Charter to situations which do not necessarily constitute such threats. This article examines the cases of use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in Iraq (to protect the Kurds), Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Haiti. Drawing upon these experiences, the author argues that a reconstruction of the notion of ``threat to the peace'' is needed. It is suggested that gross violations of human rights should be considered as threatening peace by definition and that in particularly serious situations the Security Council is justified in taking action under Chapter VII even if a threat to international peace cannot be determined.