Thor Halvorssen Mendoza

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Thor Halvorssen Mendoza
HalvorssenThor.jpg
Born 1975/1976 (age 37–38)[1][2]
Venezuela
Known for Founder and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation

Thor Leonardo Halvorssen Mendoza (born in Caracas 1976[1][2])—commonly known as Thor Halvorssen[a]—is a Venezuelan human rights advocate and film producer with contributions in the field of public policy, public interest advocacy, individual rights and civil liberties, and pro-democracy advocacy. The New York Times described Halvorssen in an August 2007 profile as a maverick "who champions the underdog and the powerless."[1] He is a columnist for the left-leaning Huffington Post and also writes for Forbes magazine.[3]

Halvorssen is founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual 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".[4] Halvorssen is president of the Human Rights Foundation, an organization devoted to protecting liberty in the Americas. He is the Patron of the Czech-based Children's Peace Movement, On Own Feet,[5] and founder of the Moving Picture Institute.[6] Halvorssen bought the traditionally leftist Norwegian news magazine Ny Tid in May 2010.[7]

Halvorssen's opinions have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Time magazine, The Nation and National Journal, and he has appeared on television outlets such as al-Jazeera, Fox News Channel’s The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, and HBO.

Thor Halvorssen was a speaker at TEDx at the University of Pennsylvania in October 2010.[8]

Background[edit]

Halvorssen was born in Venezuela to Hilda Mendoza, a descendant and a relative, respectively, of Venezuela's first two presidents Cristóbal Mendoza and Simón Bolívar. His father is Thor Halvorssen Hellum, who served as a Venezuelan Ambassador for anti-Narcotic Affairs in the administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez and as special overseas investigator of a Venezuelan Senate Commission. His family was prosperous and on his father's side he is the grandson of Øystein Halvorssen, the Norwegian king’s consul who "built a family dynasty as the Venezuelan representative for corporations including Dunlop, Alfa Laval and Ericsson."[1] His cousin is Leopoldo Lopez.[9]

Halvorssen attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, with concurrent undergraduate and graduate degrees in Political Science and History.

Father's imprisonment[edit]

When Halvorssen was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania[6] in 1993, his father was arrested while investigating the Medellín cartel for possible money laundering and bank fraud. His father was tortured, beaten, and in danger of being murdered[10] during his 74-day incarceration in a Caracas jail on "trumped-up" charges of terrorism.[11][12][13] Halvorssen led the campaign for his father’s release, garnering help from Amnesty International[6] which issued protests along with other International organizations. Halvorssen was eventually found innocent of all charges. After his release the United Nations-affiliated International Society for Human Rights appointed him director of their Pan-American Committee.[10][14][15]

Mother's shooting[edit]

While attending a peaceful protest of the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004, Halvorssen's mother, Hilda Mendoza Denham, a British subject, was shot and wounded.[16] Images of government supporters firing upon the demonstrators were captured by a live television broadcast.[17][18] The Wall Street Journal published an article about the shooting of Halvorssen's mother written by himself. According to Halvorssen, his mother was gunned down and wounded by members of the Venezuelan government security apparatus while attending a peaceful public gathering. The gunmen’s actions were broadcast on live television as they shot into the crowd, leaving twelve wounded and one (woman) dead.[19] Gunmen were later apprehended, tried, had their sentences revoked, tried again, found guilty, and received 11-year sentences for murder and for bodily harm.[20][21]

Democracy, civil liberties, and human rights advocacy[edit]

Halvorssen has a specialty on matters regarding human trafficking, slavery, and threats to democracy. He has lectured widely on the subject of human rights including Harvard Law School, the New York City Junto, the United Nations Association in New York, and the American Enterprise Institute.[22] He has also spoken at the British parliament.[23]

Lucent Technologies[edit]

In 1999, Halvorssen spearheaded a campaign on the floor of the Lucent Technologies annual shareholder meeting appealing for the creation of an anti-slave labor policy whereby Lucent would require China to certify that Lucent's products were not fabricated using slave labor. China's Laogai camps allegedly imprison eight million men, women, and children in 1100 factories, farms, and other facilities producing a wide range of consumer products.[24]

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education[edit]

In 1999, Halvorssen became the first executive director and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a U.S. civil liberties organization. As head of FIRE, Halvorssen formed coalitions that brought together the conservative and libertarian advocacy organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, Feminists for Free Expression, the Eagle Forum, with more traditional free speech defenders such as the ACLU. He has a track record of defending individuals both on the right[25] and on the left of the political spectrum.[26]

In 2001, Halvorssen stated that, "Liberty of opinion, speech, and expression is indispensable to a free and, in the deepest sense, progressive society. Deny it to one, and you deny it effectively to all. These truths long have been ignored and betrayed on our campuses, to the peril of a free society."[27] In a 2003 moderated chat, he said, "History has taught us that a society that does not respect individual rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech will not long survive as a free society in any form."[28]

Human Rights Foundation[edit]

Halvorssen stepped down as head of FIRE in March 2004 to join its Board of Advisors and announced the creation of an international group that would "champion the definition of human rights that originally animated the human rights movement, centered on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny."[29] The foundation was incorporated in 2005, opening its headquarters in New York City in August 2006. Its International Council includes several well-known prisoners of conscience such as Elie Wiesel, Harry Wu, and Vladimir Bukovsky. It also includes democracy activists such as Mart Laar, and Garry Kasparov. It’s chairman until his death in December of 2011, was Václav Havel.

At the helm of HRF Halvorssen has repeatedly lobbied and advocated for the release of Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo.[30][31] In 2010 Halvorssen was special guest of Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Prize ceremony awarding the prize to Liu Xiaobo in absentia. He is one of the 25 members of the International Committee to Support Liu Xiaobo along with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams and Arch. Desmond Tutu.[32][33][34] Halvorssen is identified as a supporter of Chinese Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer and has sharply criticized the Tawainese Kuomintang government for its banning visits by Kadeer.[35] Halvorssen has supported UN-level action to address the violations of Uyghur rights in China.

Halvorssen appears as a frequent critic of Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni and, in particular, the legislative efforts in Uganda to punish homosexuality with the death penalty.[36] Halvorssen is a critic of Hugo Chávez,[37] and has written on anti-Semitism and the assault on democracy and individual rights in Latin America.[38] Halvorssen's criticisms have also been directed at U.S. Republicans such as Jack Kemp[39] as well as Democrats including John Conyers and Jose Serrano.[40] In a symposium published by the American conservative magazine National Review, he condemned Augusto Pinochet for his human rights abuses.[41][42] Halvorssen led a campaign to expose Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s human rights violations and ultimately created a firestorm for Hollywood actress Hilary Swank after she accepted a cash payment to celebrate Kadyrov’s birthday.[43][44] Other advocacy campaigns include Panama’s president Ricardo Martinelli on freedom of speech violations; political prisoner cases in Venezuela, Vietnam, Cuba, and Bolivia; as well as the rights of human rights defenders in Colombia.

Oslo Freedom Forum[edit]

In 2009, Halvorssen founded a global gathering of human rights advocates called the Oslo Freedom Forum. It has taken place in Oslo annually since then. Forbes magazine described the meeting as "a heck of a good idea"[45] and Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang called it a "Gathering of Heroes".[46] Participants include Lubna al-Hussein, Jimmy Wales, Elie Wiesel, Marina Nemat, Peter Thiel, Julian Assange, Václav Havel, Garry Kasparov, and Leopoldo Lopez.

Children's Peace Movement[edit]

Since 2009, Halvorssen is listed as "Patron" of the Children's Peace Movement, On Own Feet. Known as the "Centipede Movement" it is a Czech-based group that facilitates bilateral relations between children and adolescents in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada, and Norway with children in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Serbia, Croatia, and Iraq.[47] The previous Patron was former Czech president Václav Havel.

Criticism of the United Nations Human Rights Council[edit]

In an article in the Huffington Post Halvorssen wrote: "It doesn’t take an academic or an intellectual to understand that something is very wrong when on the platform is the national leader of Iran who previously denied the holocaust that took place in Europe, expresses an interest in killing millions of Israeli Jews, and leads a government that actually hangs homosexuals. And this was just the first speaker! Durban II was a sad disappointment and it illustrates everything that is wrong with the current human rights establishment inside the UN. NGOs were put to one side and not allowed to comment or participate until after the final document was written. And some NGOs such as the ones representing Tibet or the Dalits were not even allowed to attend. What should have been a celebration of tolerance and dignity became a hatefest with several democracies simply standing up and walking out of the conference including Australia, Italy, Germany, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.S., Israel, and the Czech Republic. What did this say about Durban? Durban II was a disastrous embarrassment for those involved and it highlights several important weaknesses and shortcomings displayed by the human rights establishment. A magnificent opportunity to advance human rights in the world became a platform for the continuing corruption of human rights. Human Rights has, unfortunately, become watered down and redefined."[48]

Film[edit]

Halvorssen co-produced the film Freedom's Fury which was executive produced by Lucy Liu, Quentin Tarantino, and Andrew Vajna. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.[49][50] The film relates the story of the popular uprising against dictatorship that occurred in Hungary in 1956.

Halvorssen executive produced Hammer & Tickle, a film about the power of humor, ridicule, and satire as the language of truth under Soviet tyranny—jokes as a code to navigate the disconnect between propaganda and reality and as a means of resisting the system despite the absence of free speech. This film premiered at Tribeca in 2006 and featured Lech Wałęsa, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Roy Medvedev.[49] The film won Best New Documentary Film at the Zurich Film Festival.[51]

Halvorssen is listed as producer of the documentary Indoctrinate U, "a documentary about left-wing bias on college campuses"[52] which targets "the anti-intellectual, intolerant culture of [the USA's] campuses".[53] American Literary Theorist Stanley Fish wrote in the New York Times "the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary"[54] and the film received positive reviews from the Wall Street Journal, London Telegraph, New York Post, and CNN.[53]

Halvorssen is producer of the film The Singing Revolution, a film about Estonia's peaceful struggle for political independence from Soviet occupation.[55] The film premiered at the Black Nights Film Festival in December 2006 where it received a 15-minute standing ovation.[56] Since then, it has become the most successful documentary film in Estonian box-office history.[57]

Halvorssen produced The Sugar Babies,[55] a film about human trafficking in the Dominican Republic and the plight of its migrant farm workers. The targets of the documentary are wealthy and politically connected sugar barons who live in West Palm Beach: The Fanjul Family.[58] The film previewed at Florida International University where a heated exchange with the Dominican diplomatic envoy resulted in police presence. It received numerous negative reviews claiming the film's portrayal of big business and its relationship with the Dominican government was part of a campaign against the country's reputation. Death threats against the film's director and a bribery scandal involving the Dominican embassy have made the film a subject of intense media interest.[59][dead link][60][61]

He is listed as sole producer of 2081, the film adaptation of author Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron", a dystopian film about a future in which a tyrannical government arrests, imprisons without trial, and tortures those who disagree with the government policy of enforced sterilization and enforced handicapping. It premiered at the Seattle Film Festival and stars Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, Julie Hagerty, James Cosmo, and Armie Hammer. The film's music was composed by Lee Brooks and recorded by Kronos Quartet.

Awards and recognition[edit]

University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin honored Halvorssen's achievements by awarding him the Sol Feinstone Award for protecting student speech.[62] Halvorssen is a supporter and fellow of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and belongs to the leadership board.[63]

In 2010 Romanian leader Emil Constantinescu presented Halvorssen with a presidential silver medal to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Romanian Revolution of 1989. "On behalf of those who fought and died for freedom, I present this medal to the Oslo Freedom Forum founder, and remind those here that even if Romanians live in democracy now, we cannot feel entirely free as long as other people--who live under dictatorial and repressive regimes anywhere in the world--are not also be free."[64]

Publications[edit]

Notes[edit]

a Halvorssen Mendoza is known commonly as Thor Halvorssen. Per Venezuelan naming conventions, his full legal name includes both his father's (Halvorssen) and mother's (Mendoza) surnames. His full, legal, Venezuelan name distinguishes him from his father, Thor Halvorssen Hellum. (See Thor Halvorssen - Presidente. The Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on July 21, 2007. (Spanish) Also see re: Francisco Usón—Political Prisoner and Prisoner of Conscience. Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on July 21, 2007.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Strausbaugh, John (August 19, 2007). "A Maverick Mogul, Proudly Politically Incorrect". New York Times. (Archived by WebCite here.)
  2. ^ a b Rosett, Claudia (May 7, 2010). "Revaluing Freedom: Oslo Forum aims to become the Davos of human rights". Forbes. 
  3. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. "Thor Halvorssen". Huffington Post. 
  4. ^ "A crowded field". The Economist. May 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ Halvorssen, Thor (April 26, 2011). "A Different Kind of Army". Huffington Post. 
  6. ^ a b c Thor Halvorssen. Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved on December 1, 2006.
  7. ^ Global Solidarity in Action: New owners of Ny Tid - Ny Tid International
  8. ^ TEDxPenn exceeded expectations
  9. ^ Halvorssen, Thor (March 14, 2012). "Hugo Chavez channels the dead". Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  10. ^ a b Venezuelan Anti-Drug Official Fights His Foes From a Prison Cell: Evidence suggests Thor Halvorssen was framed by Colombian drug lords and their Caracas `friends'; Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Mass.: Dec 20, 1993.
  11. ^ Hilton, Isabel. "Presumed Guilty". Gentlemen's Quarterly (GQ) UK: July 1994.
  12. ^ Fonzi, Gaeton. "The Troublemaker". The Pennsylvania Gazette (November 1994)
  13. ^ (Spanish) Malaver, Manuel (August 29, 2001). "Recuerdos del terrorismo caraqueño". Tal Cual. Archived from the original on August 23, 2004. Retrieved March 3, 2007. 
  14. ^ Former Venezuelan Drug Official Freed; Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Mass.: Dec 24, 1993.
  15. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. The Americas: The price of vigilance in Venezuela's banking community. Wall Street Journal. New York, N.Y.: Mar 4, 1994. pg. A9 Available online here.
  16. ^ Briton Shot In Venezuela. EURSOC, (August 19, 2004). Retrieved on September 14, 2006.
  17. ^ (Spanish) Olivares, Francisco. Otra vez los pistoleros. El Universal (5 September 2004). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  18. ^ (Spanish) Fotos de la nueva masacre de Altamira, 2004.08.16 urru.org. Retrieved on September 14, 2006.
  19. ^ Halvorssen, Thor L. The Price of Dissent in Venezuela. Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition), Aug 19, 2004. p. A.12 Discussed online here.
  20. ^ (Spanish)http://merida.tsj.gov.ve/decisiones/2007/agosto/1812-22-359-06-.html
  21. ^ (Spanish) Revocan condena a ‘pistoleros de Altamira’. Prensa.com (11 April 2006)
  22. ^ http://hclaweb.org/conference/panels-speakers/
  23. ^ "The Responsibility to Protect". The Henry Jackson Society. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  24. ^ Lucent Stockowners Want Anti-Slave Labor Policy for China Operations. Retrieved on August 26, 2006.
  25. ^ Buckley, William F. Jr. Who Do We Blame? The case of a YAF student chapter at Penn State. National Review (April 10, 2001). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  26. ^ Carlson, Scott. University Orders Student Group to Remove Online Link to a Rebel Group's Web Site. The Chronicle of Higher Education (September 27, 2002). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  27. ^ Halvorssen, Thor L. Campus Tyranny. Retrieved on August 26, 2006.
  28. ^ Tests for Academic Freedom in a Time of War. The Chronicle of Higher Education. (April 17, 2003). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  29. ^ Glabe, Scott L. New Organization Opens Fire on Chavez, The Dartmouth Review, November 22, 2005. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  30. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. "Human Rights Is Big Winner in Nobel Peace Prize Selection". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  31. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. "Truth will Outweigh the Chinese Dictatorship--Liu Xiaobo's Freedom is the Test". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  32. ^ "HRF announces its membership in the International Committee to Support Liu Xiaobo". Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  33. ^ "Nobel Peace Prize winners campaign to release Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  34. ^ "Nobel winners urge China to release Liu Xiaobo". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  35. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. "Taiwan Fails to Learn From Its Own History". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  36. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. "United Nations: It's Okay to Kill the Gay". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  37. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Guerrilla Nation. The Weekly Standard (January 26, 2005).
  38. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Hurricane Hugo. The Weekly Standard, August 8, 2005, Volume 010, Issue 44. Also available at LookSmart.
  39. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Hugo Chavez vs. the Media. The Weekly Standard (June 9, 2003).
  40. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. Comandante Chavez's Friends. The Weekly Standard (March 11, 2003).
  41. ^ Halvorssen, Thor (December 11, 2006). Pinochet Is History. National Review Online Symposium. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  42. ^ Knapp, Alex (December 13, 2006). Another Symposium of Denial. Outside the Beltway. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  43. ^ "Hilary Swank under fire for attending Ramzan Kadyrov's party in Chechnya". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  44. ^ "Hilary Swank sacks manager and staff following Ramzan Kadyrov PR disaster". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  45. ^ Rosett, Claudia (May 7, 2010). "Revaluing Freedom Page 2 of 2". Forbes. 
  46. ^ [1]
  47. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thor-halvorssen/a-different-kind-of-army_b_574450.html
  48. ^ Halvorssen, Thor (May 25, 2011). "Tyrants Shouldn't Dictate Human Rights Policy". Huffington Post. 
  49. ^ a b Thor Halvorssen Mendoza at the Internet Movie Database Retrieved on August 26, 2006.
  50. ^ Cold War Tale Told at Last. New York Post (April 29, 2006). Available online.
  51. ^ Closing Night of the 2nd Zurich Film Festival. zurichfilmfestival.org (October 10, 2006). Retrieved on December 9, 2006.
  52. ^ Bunch, Sonny (August 13, 2007). Lights, Camera, Reaction: Thor Halvorssen's campaign to make Hollywood safe for non-leftists. The Weekly Standard. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  53. ^ a b News. Indoctrinate-U. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  54. ^ Fish, Stanley (October 14, 2007)."Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus". The New York Times Opinionator. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  55. ^ a b The Singing Revolution. Official website. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  56. ^ Reviews. The Singing Revolution. Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  57. ^ Singing Revolution. Estosite.org. Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  58. ^ Miller, Kimberly. Fanjuls disturbed by film's portrayal of sugar 'slavery'. Palm Beach Post, (June 29, 2007). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  59. ^ Deibert, Michael. Film on Plantations Spurs Backlash. Inter Press Service News Agency, (June 4, 2007). Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  60. ^ http://www.dominicanoshoy.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12566&Itemid=46
  61. ^ http://www.dominicanoshoy.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12617&Itemid=46
  62. ^ Thor Halvorssen. PublicEye.org Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  63. ^ About Acta: Society of Fellows. American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Retrieved 21 January 2007.
  64. ^ http://thehrf.org/media/042910.html

External links[edit]