Thor Halvorssen is most commonly known for his human rights advocacy. He is a Venezuelan and has contributed to the fields of public policy, individual rights, civil liberties, pro-democracy advocacy, and public interest. He has founded many organizations and has taken part in many campaigns to help better the lives of people all over the world. He has been awarded the Sol Feinstone Award from the University of Pennsylvania for protecting student speech and a presidential silver medal from Romania for his activism.
He was born in Venezuela to the daughter of Venezeula’s first president. Halvorssen’s father served as an ambassador for anti-Narcotic affairs for the country’s administration. He attended the University of Pennsylvania with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in History and Political Science.
Halvorssen was thrown into the world of activism when his father was imprisoned in 1993. He was arrested on trumped-up charges of terrorism and was tortured, beaten, and continuously in danger. Halvorssen led the campaign to free his father, leading protests alongside organizations like Amnesty International. His father was eventually freed and cleared of all charges.
In 1999, he led a campaign at Lucent Technologies shareholder meeting, demanding that they create an anti-slave labor policy. This policy would require China to certify that their products were not made using slave labor. During the same year he became the very first executive director and CEO of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), an organization for U.S. civil liberties. As its leader, FIRE formed coalitions that brought together different organizations in unity. These organizations included the Eagle Forum, the ACLU, Feminists for Free Expression, and the Heritage Foundation.
In 2005, he formed the Human Rights Foundation. This international group was created to be the champion of human rights, focusing on freedom from tyranny and self-determination. The foundation’s international council includes many well-known activists like Elie Wiesel and Garry Kasparov.
In 2009, Halvorssen founded the Oslo Freedom Forum, a global gathering of human rights advocates. It has taken place every year since its induction. It has been dubbed the “gathering of heroes” and is a place for activists all over the world to gather.
Currently, Halvorssen is in the process of producing a film adaptation of the book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He also helped produce a film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, entitled Freedom’s Fury. This film told the story of the uprising in Hungary in 1956 against its dictatorship. He has also helped produce Hammer & Tickle, The Singing Revolution, and Sugar Babies.