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Thor Halvorssen
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Thor Halvorssen is a human rights advocate and film producer. Described by the New York Times as “a champion of the underdog and the powerless,” he began advocating for human rights as an adolescent in 1989 in London by organizing opposition to South African apartheid. Halvorssen’s background is Norwegian and Venezuelan. He became involved full-time in the promotion of due process and individual rights after his father became a political prisoner in Venezuela. He founded the New York-based Human Rights Foundation after his mother was shot during a political protest there in 2004. HRF is devoted to liberating political prisoners and to promoting tolerance and democracy in Latin America. Since its founding, HRF has secured the release of seven prisoners of conscience; provided evidence to Truth Commissions; submitted amicus briefs in major international human rights cases, and published two books on individual rights and responsibilities of the state. Mr. Halvorssen is founder and CEO of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual global gathering described by The Economist as a “spectacular human-rights festival... on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum.” He is the Patron of the Prague-based Children’s Peace Movement; On Own Feet.

Entries by Thor Halvorssen

Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo's Imprisonment a Painful Reminder of China's Dictatorship

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2012 | 11:40 AM

Two Decembers ago on this day, Liu Xiaobo was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. The Chinese government did not allow Mr. Liu to receive the prize and placed his wife Liu Xia under house arrest. He is the only imprisoned Nobel laureate and she remains under...

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Chavez and Nazarbayev Celebrate Tyrannical Victory at U.N. Human Rights Council

(33) Comments | Posted November 12, 2012 | 1:39 PM

NEW YORK -- It is a good day for intolerant rulers like Hugo Chavez and Nursultan Nazarbayev, as seven countries with particularly appalling human rights records were elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council: Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

The U.N....

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An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters Regarding Their Che Guevara Merchandise

(107) Comments | Posted September 19, 2012 | 11:10 AM

Ted Marlow
CEO, Urban Outfitters
30 Industrial Park Blvd.
Trenton, SC 29847

Dear Mr. Marlow,

The Human Rights Foundation recently became aware of the sale of merchandise at Urban Outfitters emblazoned with the image of communist leader Che Guevara, at times accompanied by the word...

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How Dictators Triumph: With a Little Help From Their Friends

(3) Comments | Posted August 16, 2012 | 4:21 PM

By Thor Halvorssen and Tutu Alicante

Francisco Macias Nguema may not be as notorious as Kim Jong-Il or Joseph Stalin, but the people of Equatorial Guinea know him to be just as devastating. The dictator terrorized the country for 11 years, looting and pillaging with wanton...

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Cuba, Russia, and China Shut Down UN Human Rights Discussion About Venezuela

(33) Comments | Posted July 1, 2012 | 6:22 PM

GENEVA -- Last Thursday, I was on the schedule to deliver testimony at the United Nations Human Rights Council. I was invited to be part of UN Watch's campaign to stop Hugo Chavez's bid to elect Venezuela to a seat on the council this November.

NGOs are allotted...

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An Open Letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore

(52) Comments | Posted April 24, 2012 | 3:12 PM

Dear Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,

In November of 2011, the Human Rights Foundation invited Dr. Chee Soon Juan -- one of your well-known critics and one of Singapore's most visible opposition leaders -- to speak at the 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum, taking place May 7, 8, and 9 in...

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Amidst the Carnage, Syria Finds a Loyal Ally in Hugo Chávez

(12) Comments | Posted April 10, 2012 | 6:48 PM

At a time when most nations are trying to figure out how to stop Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from killing his own people in a year-long struggle to stay in power, the Venezuelan government is helping to prop him up.

The facts and figures coming out of Syria are grisly,...

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Stopping Genocide: The Responsibility to Protect

(12) Comments | Posted January 20, 2012 | 10:51 AM

Should democratic governments step into the sovereign affairs of other states in order to prevent genocide or mass killings?

During World War II, German cleric Dietrich Bonhoeffer actively conspired against Hitler to resist the persecution of Europe's Jews. Bonhoeffer spent years subverting Nazi policy at the highest level and was...

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North Korea: Behind the Veil (VIDEO)

(1) Comments | Posted December 21, 2011 | 12:13 PM

As the world focuses its attention on the horrors of Kim Jong Il's rule, the Human Rights Foundation uploads three important talks given at the Oslo Freedom Forum to take you behind the regime's repressive curtain.

Hear from two of the world's most prominent North...

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Uganda: A Brutal Reality Obscured

(10) Comments | Posted December 6, 2011 | 7:25 PM

General Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda for more than 25 years. Since taking power in a 1986 military coup, he has stacked this Central African country's voting commission with his henchmen and stolen its elections. Having abolished presidential term limits in 2005 in a sham referendum, he plans...

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Durban III - A Weapon of Mass Distraction

(0) Comments | Posted September 21, 2011 | 11:41 AM

Today the UN General Assembly will hold its "Durban III" conference in midtown Manhattan. The event commemorates the 10th anniversary of the first Durban conference and declaration, which the UN bills as the "international community's blueprint" for fighting racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance.

Key speakers at the first two Durban...

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More PR Shame: Associated Press Cooperates With Dictatorial Propaganda Machines

(4) Comments | Posted August 15, 2011 | 1:56 PM

Co-authored by Pedro Pizano

Fidel Castro just celebrated his 85th Birthday. One would think that after 52 years of running a police state in Cuba, the media would accept that Castro is a brutal oppressor and tyrant. Comparable, no doubt, to any of the totalitarian despots still alive today. For...

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George Ayittey: How to Defeat a Dictator

(6) Comments | Posted June 24, 2011 | 3:07 PM

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey attended the Oslo Freedom Forum in May. There, he sat down with me to talk about defeating dictators.

Thor Halvorssen: How pervasive is dictatorship in Africa today?

George Ayittey: Africa has more dictators per capita than any other continent. In 1990, only four...

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After 33 Years of Torture and Prison, A Life of Forgiveness

(1) Comments | Posted June 22, 2011 | 10:19 AM

By Thor Halvorssen

Buddhist monk Palden Gyatso endured 33 years of torture at the hands of the Chinese government in Tibet's most brutal prison. He is in New York right now and you are invited to hear his life story -- one of the greatest never told.

Andrei Sakharov, Elie...

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Monsters Rule in Pakistan; Rape is Public Policy

(3) Comments | Posted June 3, 2011 | 1:39 PM

By Thor Halvorssen and Pedro Pizano

They raped her.

Fourteen men raped Mukhtar Mai. And this was not a criminal act; the village council authorized it. You see, rape is standard punishment in Pakistan for women and girls who have brought dishonor to their families or communities....

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PR Mercenaries, Their Dictator Masters, and the Human Rights Stain

(24) Comments | Posted May 19, 2011 | 3:36 PM

Maryam al-Khawaja took the stage at the Oslo Freedom Forum last Tuesday and stunned the audience with her experiences of government violence in the Kingdom of Bahrain. She described the killing of student protestors, the torture of democracy advocates, and how human rights defenders are "disappeared." Maryam also...

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Yoani Sánchez Forbidden by Cuba to Collect Her Award; CEPOS Freedom Prize Presented in Absentia

(5) Comments | Posted May 5, 2011 | 3:38 PM

COPENHAGEN -- Tonight, Yoani Sánchez -- the world-renowned Cuban blogger and philologist -- will be honored here with the inaugural Freedom Award, in the amount of $50,000, by the independent Danish think tank, CEPOS. Human rights defenders, members of the Danish parliament, prominent Cuban exiles, and members of...

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A Royal Wedding Divorced of Human Rights Concerns; Dictators Will Eat Wedding Cake

(2) Comments | Posted April 28, 2011 | 3:32 PM

LONDON, ENGLAND--At exactly 30 minutes past noon this Friday, the just-married future King and Queen of England will arrive at Buckingham Palace in their 1902 State Landau carriage, richly adorned with gold leaf and upholstered in crimson satin.

At the palace, a Guard of Honour comprising three officers and 101...

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Even Drug Kingpins Have Rights -- Makled Extradition Violates International Human Rights Law

(7) Comments | Posted April 24, 2011 | 10:18 PM

By Thor Halvorssen and Pedro Pizano

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has announced the extradition of Walid Makled, a Venezuelan drug kingpin, from Colombia to Venezuela. This will take place in the next few weeks, setting a frightening precedent with monumental consequences for Colombia, Venezuela, and,...

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Democrat and Republican Reps Agree: Hold President Hu Accountable for Human Rights

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2011 | 10:08 AM

China, human rights, and Hu Jintao's visit to Washington: an interview with Congressmen Chris Smith (Republican-NJ) and David Wu (Democrat-OR).

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. Congressman David...

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