In late February, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) met with staff members of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The round of high level meetings gave the HRF the opportunity to present its own findings concerning the 2012 death of Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Payá. HRF strongly believes Paya’s death was an extrajudicial execution – meaning he was killed by government authorities without due judicial proceedings. Mr. Paya fought peacefully to restore democracy and freedom to Cuba. In attendance was Paya’s daughter, Rosa Maria, demanding that the Cuban government provide official explanation for each of the violations presented in the HRF legal report.
HRF has long been a leader in advocating against closed societies, exposing dictatorships, raising awareness of human rights violations, and promoting legal scholarship in international human rights law. The Human Rights Foundation was founded in 2005 by Thor Halvorssen, a Venezuelan human rights advocate and film producer. Their mission adheres to the belief that all individuals have the right to speak freely, acquire and dispose of property, to freely leave and enter their country, and the right to worship in the manner of their choice. HRF firmly states that it only accepts donations from individuals who understand that the group will follow any investigations or research to whatever conclusions the foundation uncovers.
HRF’s founder, Thor Halvorssen, is also founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum. This global gathering of 250 human rights activists have met annually since 2009. Participants have included journalists, donors, campaigners, Nobel Prize winners and even former child slaves. The event’s power lies in it grassroots ability to bring together a mix of activists and policy makers that can actually effect change on what they hear at the forum. The biggest impact comes from torture victims, child slaves and political prisoners who by sharing their stories can clearly illuminate the atrocities that happen within closed societies.
Mr. Halvorssen has actively produced many documentaries detailing these stories. The film Sugar Babies, which he produced is a documentary about human trafficking and the plight of farm workers in Dominican Republic. He also co-produced, Freedom’s Fury, in which he partnered with Lucy Liu and Quentin Tarantino. The film had a successful premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and tells the story of the 1956 national revolt against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic. Mr. Halvorssen has received many awards for his human rights work, including the Presidential Silver Medal from Romanian leader Emil Constantinescu, in 2010.