The Centre for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) was instituted at a time in which the rule of law of the country was threatened, the human rights reputation of Sri Lanka was severely tarnished and society was insisting on their rights being defended. Understanding the responsibility of responding to the need of the hour in the country, the University of Colombo, brought human rights education into the public domain by creating the CSHR as a service oriented, non-profit making institution. Setting up a university based Human Rights institute, which aims at creating a rights conscious society, where the dignity and rights of everyone are respected was unprecedented.

In 1991, through the untiring efforts of Dr Deepika Udagama, who was an academic of the Faculty of Law at the time, that the need for an organisation of this nature came in into being, leading to the setting up of the CSHR.

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights is an institute established under the purview of the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo. It is governed by its own constitution, which is compatible with the rules and regulations of the University of Colombo. The Centre functions with both donor and self-generated funds.

The CSHR carries out programmes and projects under its mandate of human rights education and research in its four identified areas of work, which are: Human Rights Education, Research, Capacity Building and Knowledge Services, which are accessible to diverse groups of persons.