Thor Halvorssen is the president of a Human Rights Foundation (HRF), based in New York, which launched in 2005. His paternal grandfather directed Norway’s fleets to ports in Venezuela when the Germans invaded. Halvorssen’s mother is a descendent of the first Venezuelan president.
His parents did experience hardships. His father was tortured in a Caracas prison after his work as a Venezuela drug czar exposed corruption in the government. According to The Atlantic, Halvorssen’s mother was shot while participating in a demonstration. It is not hard to see how he was pulled into human rights.
His leadership has had a history of standing up against authoritarians. Garry Kasparov, his chairman, received multiple punches as he was carried off by Russian police while protesting a band’s guilty verdict of singing an anti-Putin song. Halvorssen has taken beatings himself.
One particular resulting after he snuck into the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam to tape an interview. Vietnamese authorities roughed him up as he left and detained him. He considers himself a “classical liberal” who stands against any dictator. HRF has become widely known with human-rights events.
He has also contributed to human rights by becoming the first executive director and chief executive officer of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He stepped down in 2004 to pursue other human rights activities. He founded a worldwide gathering of human rights advocates in 2009.
It has been named the Oslo Freedom Forum and annually takes place. That same year he listed as a Patron of the Children’s Peace Movement.
Presently, Halvorssen is producing a film based off a science fiction novel. He has even co-produced for movies focusing on uprisings and ridicule of dictators and tyrants. His efforts in protecting student speech earned him the Sol Feinstone Award.
To commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 revolution in Romania, a Romanian leader gave him a presidential silver medal. Thor Halvorssen certainly has an intriguing background. Despite questionable methods, it is not hard to see that he cares deeply for human rights. It will be interesting to see what he does next.