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Born to a man with ancestral ties to the Norwegian king’s consul and a mother who is a descendant of Venezuela’s first president, young Thor Halvorssen grew up to become a champion of global human rights.

His first direct contact came while a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania where he was studying political science and history. Thor Halvorssen’s father was arrested, tortured and beaten in a Caracas jail for 74 days while investigating the Medellin cartel for possible money laundering and bank fraud. The young Halvorssen jumped to action by connecting with Amnesty International and started a campaign for his father’s release. Ultimately, the charges were dropped, his father was released, and Halvorssen ended up director of the Pan-American Committee for the International Society for Human Rights.

About a decade later, a second incident hit home. Halvorssen’s mother was attending a peaceful protest in Venezuela and was shot and wounded. This event was captured on live television and led Halvorssen to pen an article that was published in The Wall Street Journal.

Today, Halvorssen continues his advocacy as founder of the non-profit Human Rights Foundation. Started in 2005 and headquartered in New York City, the HRF’s mission is to “unite people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy.” They have an International Council comprised of several former political prisoners including Russian activist Vladimir Bukovsky and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

In 2009, Halvorssen founded the Oslo Freedom Forum. It takes place annually in Oslo, Norway and brings together human rights activists from around the globe. It has become so successful that The Economist described it as a “spectacular human-rights festival…on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Dabos economic forum.”

Halvorssen is equally passionate about identifying human rights issues through films that he has produced such as Indoctrinate U, Freedom’s Fury, The Singing Revolution, The Libel Tourist and more currently in development or post-production.