The Centre for Human Rights is both an academic department and a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which 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, 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.
Mission and Vision
The vision of the Centre for Human Rights is to be a world-class academic institution focusing on research, teaching and advocacy in the field of human rights law in Africa, with a mission to work towards the realisation of human rights particularly in South Africa and Africa. This is done on a theoretical and practical level, through research, education, training, lobbying and community development work. The Centre strives for ubuntu (humanity) and excellence in all its undertakings.
Main activities and services
- Academic Programmes: LLD Programme, LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), LLM/MPhil (Multidisciplinary Human Rights), LLM (HIV and International Law in Africa), LLM (International Trade and Investment Law in Africa);
- Human Rights Education: African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC), International Development Law Unit (IDLU), World Human Rights Moot Court Competition;
- Research and Advocacy: Gender Unit, Disability Rights Project, Access to Information Project and Business Human Rights Project;
- Publications: Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), African Human Rights Law Journal and African Human Rights Law Reports; and
- Other: Conferences, seminars, meetings, working groups, training and advocacy on various human rights issues.
Challenges and opportunities
The Centre, together with the Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), disseminates various texts (in hard copy and electronic format) to the legal and human rights communities across Africa and beyond. This task in itself is challenging but with the aid of the various networks created through the Alumni Association and the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, the distribution becomes less daunting. The Centre and PULP (housed in the Centre) subscribe to the Open Access Publishing model where the full texts of Centre for Human Rights publications are available online for free.
Impact and contribution to society
A wide network of the Centre alumni contributes in numerous ways to the advancement and strengthening of human rights and democracy all over the African continent and even further afield. The Centre also partners with 11 other African universities to strengthen its regional cooperation initiative on the continent. The network is further broadened through the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition and the Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC).
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.
In 2012, The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), the oldest human rights body of the African Union, awarded its first ever NGO Prize for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to the Centre for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.
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