doi about

About Us

At a glance

Institute at a glance 2022.png


The Dullah Omar Institute started its work under the name 'Community Law Centre', an organisation borne out of the struggle against apartheid. The Community Law Centre opened its doors in 1990 with the help of the Ford FoundationAdv Dullah Omar, a human rights lawyer, was its first director. The Centre played a major role in the negotiations towards a democratic South Africa. First staff members included prominent activists such as Bulelani Ngcuka, Dr Zola Skweyiya, and Brigitte Mabandla. Working with Albie Sachs and Prof Kader Asmal they participated in the constitutional negotiations. Ever since our inception, we have been a major contributor to policy formulation for South Africa’s constitutional order and increasingly, elsewhere on the continent.

Click here for a video about the history of the Community Law Centre.

In 2015, the Community Law Centre was renamed into the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights to honour our founding director and the first Minister of Justice in a democratic South Africa. We host the prestigious Dullah Omar Memorial Lecture to pay tribute to the rich legacy of the late Adv Dullah Omar.

Key initiatives and achievements

Every year, the Institute produces more than 60 articles, books and research reports and hosts more than 50 workshops, conferences and seminars. It houses professorial and research staff of national and international repute including three NRF-rated researchers. It collaborates with numerous national and international universities, NGOs and thinktanks to pursue policy impact in governance, development and the realisation of human rights. 

  • The Institute has produced over 12 doctoral graduates in the last 5 years, many of whom are staff members
  • The Institute is active across Africa, making critical contributions to governance and human rights. Click here to see in which countries the Institute has projects.  
  • The Institute successfully intervened in landmark Constitutional Court cases, such as Grootboom (on the right of access to housing) and Treatment Action Campaign matter (on the provision of anti-retroviral medication to HIV positive pregnant mothers). It also regularly provides expert support or evidence to public interest litigation.
  • The Institute has observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  • The Institute provides leadership, support and input into numerous civil society alliances on women’s rights, socio-economic rights, rights of persons with disabilities, maternal health rights, and people deprived of their liberty .
  • The Institute is a leader in research on the intersection of criminal justice and human rights
  • In 2012, the Institute was awarded a National Research Foundation Chair in Multilevel Government Law and Policy, now held by its former Director, Prof Jaap de Visser 
  • In 2015, Prof Mezmur, head of the Institute’s Children’s Rights Project was appointed Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Research areas

The Institute’s work covers four major human rights areas, namely children’s rights, socio-economic rights, multilevel government and criminal justice.

The Children’s Rights Project (CRP), headed by Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, undertakes research, advocacy, and technical support activities related to the formulation and implementation of law and policy in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter).

Africa Criminal Justice Reform (ACJR) is headed by Associate Prof Lukas Muntingh, and the project engages in high-quality research and advocacy on criminal justice reform and human rights in Africa. The work supports targeted evidence-based advocacy and policy development promoting good governance and human rights in criminal justice systems. ACJR promotes policy, law and practice reform based on evidence.

Prof Jaap de Visser is the Acting SARChI Chair in Multilevel Government, Law and Development. The Chair focuses on advancing development in South Africa and Africa through multi-level governance (MLG) embedded in the rule of law. It works closely together with the Multilevel Government, Law and Development (MLG), headed by Associate Prof Tinashe Carlton Chigwata.

The Socio-Economic Rights Project (SERP), headed by Gladys Mirugi-Mukundi, promotes the realisation of socio-economic rights in South Africa and the African region. It conducts engaged, multi-disciplinary research, human rights education and actively campaigns around key social justice issues.


The Institute resorts under the University of the Western Cape’s Faculty of Law. It comprises approximately 24 staff - researchers, doctoral and post-doctoral researchers and support staff. It is advised by an Advisory Board. The Institute is headed by Prof Lukas Muntingh. The Institute receives must of its income through international and domestic donor support and commissioned research. It is also supported by the University by means of a number of academic posts and donations in kind.


Please click HERE to view the Dullah Omar Institute's Constitution

© Dullah Omar Institute | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | DOI Constitution
CMS Website by Juizi