Thor Halvorssen is a well-known human rights activist who was born in Venezuela. His father served as a Venezuelan Ambassador for anti-Narcotic Affairs and was a special overseas investigator of the Senate Commission. Thor Halvorssen graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with undergraduate and graduate degrees in History and Political Science.
When Thor Halvorssen was just a freshman, his father was arrested, tortured and beaten presumably for his investigation into the Medellin cartel. He was incarcerated for a total of 74 days, but went on to have a successful life afterwards. Thor Halvorssen led the campaign for the release of his father, enrolling the help of Amnesty International. This fight sparked his passion for human rights activism.
Since young adulthood, Thor Halvorssen has become extremely passionate and educated about human trafficking, slavery, dictatorships, and any threats to a democracy. He has lectured at places like the United Nations in New York, the American Enterprise Institute, and Harvard Law School.
In 1999, he founded a U.S. civil liberties organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He became the foundation’s executive director and CEO, forming coalitions which brought together varying organizations like ACLU and the Heritage Foundation.
In 2005, Thor Halvorssen founded an international group with the aim of being the champion of human rights, focused on freedom and self-determination. The Human Rights Foundation’s headquarters was finally opened in New York City in 2006 and its International Council includes many well-known figures and activists like Vladimir Bukovsky, Elie Wiessel, and Mart Laar. Vaclav Havel sat as the council’s chairman until 2011.
Thor Halvorssen founded an international gather of human advocates in 2009, the Oslo Freedom Forum. Commonly referred to as the “Gathering of Heroes,” this yearly forum hosts a number of activists, survivors, and experts in an effort to combine forces to fight for freedom.
He is also a patron of the Children’s Peace Movement, On Own Feet. This “centipede movement” is a Czech-based organization that helps create relationships between children in Poland, Canada, Norway, and the Czech Republic with other children in war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.