The Centre for Human Rights is both an academic department and a non-governmental organisation, and works towards human rights education in Africa, a greater awareness of human rights, the wide dissemination of publications on human rights in Africa, and the improvement of the rights of women, people living with HIV, indigenous peoples, sexual minorities and other disadvantaged or marginalised persons or groups across the continent.
The Centre was established in the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, in 1986, as part of domestic efforts against the apartheid system of the time. Members of the Centre participated in meetings with the liberation movements outside the borders of South Africa, organised conferences and participated in efforts to promote human rights in South Africa, and, when the transition came, served as technical advisors to both the interim and final constitution writing processes. The focus of the Centre has now broadened beyond the borders of South Africa. Over the years, it has positioned itself in an unmatched network of practising and academic lawyers, national and international civil servants and human rights practitioners across the entire continent, with a specific focus on human rights law in Africa, and international development law in general.
Today, a wide network of Centre alumni contribute in numerous ways to the advancement and strengthening of human rights and democracy all over the Africa continent, and even further afield. In 2006, the Centre for Human Rights was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education, with particular recognition for the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition and the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa.