Thor Halvorssen: Head of NYC Human Rights Foundation

Thor Halvorssen heads up New York City-based Human Rights Foundation, an NGO that seeks to stamp out tyranny around the world. However, Halvorssen is not the typical human rights activist concerned primarily with the American and European political and military power and glossing over the crimes socialist regimes.

Thor Halvorssen, who is originally from Caracas, Venezuela, and comes from a long line of diplomats and statesmen, argues that there are plenty of people taking on the United States and other western countries on the human rights records. He reasons that his role should be to take on the major offenders, such as Cuba and Vietnam.  This article from The Atlantic mentions that Halvorssen, who has several family members who have stood up to the Chavez regime and has a cousin who is currently a political prisoner in Venezuela, has himself risked his life for his cause. On one occasion he traveled to Vietnam to interview a Buddhist leader whose church had been made illegal, and was detained by Vietnamese authorities.

Halvorssen, who is of Norwegian as well as Venezuelan descent, became involved in human rights full-time after his father was imprisoned by the Chavez regime. He founded HRF in 2004 and has since succeeded securing the release of seven political prisoners. In addition, he is the founder of Oslo Freedom Forum, which was described by The Economist as the human rights community’s answer to Davos.

Halvorssen began his career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he edited an alternative conservative student newspaper and was actively involved in politics, even helping a Venezuelan political candidate hire an American political consultant. He also joined human rights organizations in securing the release of his father, a Venezuelan political prisoner.

Many people characterize Halvorssen as a “conservative” activist, but he rejects this label. Rather, Halvorssen sees himself as a classical liberal who rejects despotism in all of its forms. He points out that he has condemned the crimes of the Pinochet regime just as he has those of left-wing regimes around the world.


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