When Thor Halvorssen’s family came under attack by his own government in the 1990s, his education on the lack of basic human rights in many places in the world began. First his father was kidnapped in public by the violent forces of the Venezuelan dictatorial regime of the early 1990s. His father had been a an official ambassador and professional diplomat. He was illegally and without any due process detained in a secret prison. There he was tortured, beaten, and abused without any formal charges or access to any type of defense attorney.
While his family demanded information and his father’s release, powerful individuals came forward to help and human rights foundations threw in their support to try to get the man freed. Amnesty International and the International Society for Human Rights both fought hard for his release. All their efforts, together with the critical media attention outside the nation, eventually won his father’s freedom. Several years later, after these same forces had tortured and murdered an untold number of citizens who mostly seemingly arbitrary targets, Thor’s mother was shot. She was attending a peaceful public gathering when machine gun fire from government forces tore through the group. One person died and Thor’s mother was severely injured. She barely survived, as did 10 others who were also wounded. At other times a number of his other family members were similarly targeted.
Since then, Thor Halvorssen has worked tirelessly to promote representative democracy throughout the world. He founded the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) in 2005 to bring about change in oppressed countries to bring the freedom of human rights to everyone. These rights include the following:
Freedom of speech
Freedom of self-determination
Right to worship
Freedom to associate
Right to buy and sell property
Freedom of travel
Right to equal treatment by law enforcement
Right to participate in government
Freedom from exile or arbitrary detainment
Freedom from torture and slavery
Freedom in matters of conscience
Thor Halvorssen went on to use the HRF as a platform for the Oslo Freedom Forum. This was a meeting of the minds that held the first forum meeting in 2009. Advocates of human rights around the world, including a Nobel Peace Prize winner and various heads of state were in attendance. Wired magazine commented on the forum: “The seamless mix of grassroots activists, many of whom have risked their lives to speak out, and the top-level policymakers and influencers who can act on what they learn.”