Thor Halvorssen was a college freshman when he received the call that would change his life. His father had been imprisoned in Venezuela, in one of the worst prisons in the world, on false charges of terrorism.
Thor Halvorssen immediately began petitioning ambassadors and international organizations. The media firestorm and support from Amnesty International culminated in the release of his father.
This event catalyzed Thor Halvorssen’s lifelong passion for human rights and began his career. Following the campaign, the International Society for Human Rights appointed him director of their Pan-American Committee.
Halvorssen again entered the public eye in 1999, when he championed a campaign pressuring Lucent Technologies to adopt antislavery policies. That same year he became the chief executive officer and executive director for the Foundations for Individual Rights in Education. He headed the group for five years, forming bipartisan coalitions to defend free speech for all.
In 2004 Halvorssen announced a new foundation that would “champion the definition of human rights that originally animated the human rights movement, centered on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny.” The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) was born. HRF conducts programs globally, focusing on education and advocacy.
Some of their largest advocacy campaigns have fought for women in Pakistan and the release of Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo. HRF also works to expose dictatorships, human rights violations, and the people who support them, including Hollywood celebrities. The organization’s Center for Law and Democracy promotes legal scholarship and improvements in international law. Finally, they conduct on the ground humanitarian aid programs to assist activists and citizens.
Thor Halvorssen is only 40 years old and he has changed the world. His tremendous contributions to the fields of public policy, pro-democracy advocacy, and individual rights and civil liberties are truly inspiring.