Thor Halvorssen is a human rights advocate and also a film producer, originally from Venezuela. He has made contributions in the world of public interest advocacy, individual rights, civil liberties, public policy, and pro-democracy advocacy.
He is founder of an annual gathering, called the Oslo Freedom Forum, which is a human-rights festival. He is also the President of an organization that devotes itself to freedom and human rights, the Human Rights Foundation. Halvorssen founded the Moving Picture Institute and is also a patron of On Own Feet, a children’s peace movement.
Halvorssen was originally born in Venezuela. His mother was a descendent of the country’s first president Cristobal Mendoza. His father was a Venezuelan Ambassador for anti-narcotic affairs and a special overseas investigator for the country’s Senate Commission. He went to college at the University of Pennsylvania and received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in History and Political Science.
While attending college, in 1993, Halvorssen’s father was arrested while he was investigating a drug cartel for bank fraud and money laundering. During his 74-day incarceration in Caracas on trumped-up charges of terrorism, his father was beaten, tortured, and in constant danger. Halvorssen consequently led a campaign for the release of his father, receiving help from Amnesty International. His father was eventually found innocent and after his release the International Society for Human Rights hired him as the Director of their Pan-American Committee.
Halvorssen’s mother was shot in 2004 while attending a peaceful protest. The whole ordeal involving government supporters opening fire on the protesters was caught on film. Halvorssen wrote an article that was published in The Wall Street Journal regarding his mother’s shooting, claiming that she was gunned down by Venezuelan government members. The gunmen were eventually found, tried, and sentenced.
In 1999, Halvorssen became the very first CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. civil liberties organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He formed unions that united organizations like Feminists for Free Expression, the Eagle Forum, Heritage Foundation, and the ACLU. He is known for his continuous defense of freedom for both right and left side politics.
He founded the Human Rights Foundation in 2005, headquartered in New York City. The purpose of his new organization would be to be a champion for human rights, focusing on self-determination and freedom from tyranny. Its international council consists of many well-known political prisoners and includes many democracy activists.