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Template:Infobox Non-profit The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a non-profit organization whose stated mission "is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted" in the Americas.[1] The Human Rights Foundation was founded in 2005 by Thor Halvorssen. Its head office is in New York City, New York, USA.


Its definition of human rights focuses on the essential ideals of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny and the rights of property.

HRF's website states that it adheres to the definition of human rights as put forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), believing that all individuals are entitled to the right to speak freely, the right to worship in the manner of their choice, the right to freely associate with those of like mind, the right to acquire and dispose of property, the right to leave and enter their country, the right to equal treatment and due process under law, the right to be able to participate in the government of their country, freedom from arbitrary detainment or exile, freedom from slavery and torture, and freedom from interference and coercion in matters of conscience.

HRF states that it operates transparently. It states that it makes public all of its research and that it is open to accepting new information and criticisms that might undermine its positions.[2]

HRF's Board of Directors are Thor Halvorssen (President and CEO), Ron Jacobs, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr. and Robert A. Sirico.[3]

It is guided and endorsed by an International Council that includes former political prisoners Vaclav Havel, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Ramón José Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu, as well as chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, former Estonian prime minister Mart Laar, political commentator Álvaro Vargas Llosa, and public policy professor James Q. Wilson.[4] Jurist and law professor Kenneth Anderson is also on their International Council. Anderson was founding director of the Human Rights Watch Arms Division and later general counsel to the Open Society Institute/Soros Foundations.[6]


HRF states that donations are accepted "with a categorical understanding that the foundation is free to research and investigate regardless of where such investigations may lead or what conclusions HRF may reach." They also add: "If an individual or foundation has contributed to HRF’s work, this does not mean HRF necessarily endorses said individual or foundation’s views or opinions. In plain language: We are grateful, privileged, and proud that we receive support; it means our mission and work are being endorsed. This does not, however, mean we endorse the views of those who support us."

HRF does not publish the names of their donors. Their website states the following reasons: "Some funders do not wish to be known due to fear of retaliation, others do not wish to be known because they do not want to be approached by other groups or organizations soliciting for donations, and still others do not wish to be known because they may, ultimately, disagree with the decisions and public statements of HRF."

In 2009 HRF received a $35,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation,[5] as it had in 2007.[6] In 2007, HRF received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation for $171,600[7] toward a program called "The Nobility of the Human Spirit and the Power of Freedom", a grant from the Sarah Scaife Foundation for $100,000[8] toward general operations and $20,000 from the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation.[9] In 2009 HRF organised a human rights event in Oslo, Norway, under the name Oslo Freedom Forum. The event was supported by a grant for $34,000 from the government of Norway.[10]



HRF participated as international observers[11][12] during the controversial Santa Cruz autonomy referendum, 2008 [13][14][15][16][17][18][19] HRF also produced several reports on political lynching in Bolivia and the assault on freedom of speech.[20]

Dominican Republic

HRF produced and provided the funding for the documentary film "The Sugar Babies: The Plight of the Children of Agricultural Workers in the Sugar Industry". It was first screened at Florida International University on June 27, 2007. The documentary about human trafficking of Haitians in the Dominican Republic drew protest from the Fanjul brothers, one of the largest beneficiaries of the human trafficking depicted in the film, with a sugar empire that dwarfs the US Sugar Corporation. [21] [22]


In March 2008 HRF wrote to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa asking for the release of the imprisoned, governor of the province of Orellana, Guadalupe Llori implying that the charges against her were politically motivated.[23] Later in March Amnesty International declared that governor Guadalupe Llori may be a prisoner of conscience and a political prisoner[24] and in June HRF declared they considered her both.[25] According to HRF Llori was imprisoned on trumped up terrorism charges by the government.[26] She was sent to El Inca prison where she remained for about ten months. HRF filed a communication with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, pleading that it activate its urgent action procedure and send an appeal to the government of Ecuador for the immediate release of political prisoner Guadalupe Llori.[27] HRF visited her in prison.[28] She was eventually freed after an intense international campaign and credited HRF with her release.[29] She was re-elected governor of Orellana in April 2009.[30]


Following the 2010 earthquake that took place in Haiti, HRF began a fundraising campaign among Hollywood and sports celebrities for a food program devoted to the children of the St. Clare's community of Port Au Prince. The program was started in 2000 by American author Margaret Trost and by the late Gerard Jean-Juste, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who served as the priest of the St. Clare’s community. The HRF campaign included Frasier's Kelsey Grammer, Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton, Forrest Gump's Gary Sinise, Baywatch Night's Angie Harmon, and NFL cornerback Jason Sehorn. The campaign aimed at providing 160,000 meals for children. [7]


Following the 2009 Honduran coup d'état that deposed President Manuel Zelaya, HRF requested to all member states of the Organization of American States the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the suspension of the government that ousted President Zelaya.[31] HRF chairman Armando Valladares resigned on July 2, 2009 in response to the HRF position on the Honduran coup.[32] The new chairman of the organization is poet and former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

In November 2009, HRF published a report called "The facts and the law behind the democratic crisis in Honduras 2009",[33] in which it concluded that the Organization of American States had acted correctly in activating the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and incorrectly in its diplomatic actions to revert the military coup. The report also concludes that the OAS behaved as an agent of Zelaya prior to the coup d'etat and that Zelaya had been eroding Honduran democracy.[34]

Oslo Freedom Forum

With support from the city of Oslo and the John Templeton Foundation[10][35] HRF organized the Oslo Freedom Forum in May 2009, where freedom, democracy and human rights activists,[36] such as Park Sang-hak,[37] expressed their views about human rights in the world today. Other participants included author Jung Chang, holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Buddhist monk Palden Gyatso, Amnesty International Norway Director John Peder Egnaes, British Royal Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York, and Harry Wu.

Its 2010 event is supported by the Norwegian government, Amnesty International, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Nobel Peace Center among several others.[38]


The Human Rights Foundation published four reports in November 2006, all case studies of human rights violations in Venezuela.[39] In January 2008, HRF researcher, Monica Fernandez, was shot and wounded in Caracas,[40] in what the police described as an armed robbery.[41] In October 2007 HRF created a "Caracas Nine" blog to highlight "the plight of nine Venezuelans who spoke their minds and paid a price";[42] by January 2010, it had chosen six Venezuelans to be part of its "Caracas Nine" campaign.[43] As part of its Caracas Nine campaign, HRF declared Francisco Usón as prisoner of conscience in December 2006.[44] In November 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Venezuela to annul the case against Francisco Usón, for violations to freedom of expression, and to due process. The court also ordered the Venezuelan State to pay +$100,000 in damages to Usón.[45]

In 2007 HRF protested the refusal to renew RCTV television station's broadcasting licence by the government. HRF created a website that features information, and a video on censorship, in connection with this.[46] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about the failure to renew the licence.[47] The campaign against the refusal to renew the license—widely viewed by the human rights community as a "shutdown" included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Press Freedom Committee and numerous other journalism and human rights organizations.

HRF's local chapter in Bolivia

HRF-Bolivia was established in 2007[48]. On its blog, HRF-Bolivia states that it is an independent group and that it "co-operates" with HRF. None of HRF-Bolivia's directors appear on the board or council of the main HRF organization in the U.S. HRF-Bolivia has issued several reports on human rights abuses in Bolivia.[49][50][51]

In spring 2009, Hugo Achá, the president of HRF-Bolivia at the time, was accused by Bolivian authorities of links with the alleged armed insurrectionist group[52] led by Eduardo Rózsa-Flores.[53][54] Speaking from the United States, Achá denied any involvement and said he had merely met Rózsa because the latter had approached him in his function as a journalist, with a request for human rights-related information.[53][55] Ignacio Villa Vargas, a key witness who had implicated Achá, later claimed he had been tortured and, under duress, had signed a statement prepared for him by the Bolivian official prosecuting the case.[54][56][57] The prosecutor dismissed these statements as false.[57] Juan Carlos Gueder, another witness who was said to have made statements linking Achá to the group, subsequently retracted them, claiming he had been tortured and forced to implicate the others.[58][59] A Bolivian state ombudsman found in January 2010 that Mario Tadic, a third associate of Rózsa-Flores' who had implicated Achá, had been tortured by police.[53][60]

In June 2009 three of the seven founding HRF-Bolivia board members resigned.[61] Subsequently a new board was formed naming as president Lidia Gueiler Tejada, a former Bolivian president who was overthrown in a right-wing military coup d'etat in 1980.[62]

Public perception

Los Angeles Times writer Patrick Goldstein refers to the organization as "respected",[8] while HRF – along with Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and other rights groups – has been called a CIA front by Jean Guy Allard writing for Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party .[63][64]

Writing as president of HRF in the American conservative magazine National Review, Thor Halvorssen participated in NR's symposium on the death of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and was noted as the only one of the six commentators to condemn Pinochet unequivocally, writing: "Augusto Pinochet took full control of Chile — by force. He shut down parliament, suffocated political life, banned trade unions, and made Chile his sultanate. His government disappeared 3,000 opponents, arrested 30,000 (torturing thousands of them), and controlled the country until 1990."[65][66]

After a public letter released on the HRF website critical of the Bolivian government for alleged human rights violations and specifically naming government minister Sacha Sergio Llorenti Solis as having manipulated facts and ignored due process, the minister referred to HRF as "right wing".[67][68]. SInce June of 2009 the honorary president of Human Rights Foundation Bolivia is Lidia Gueiler Tejada a former Bolivian president who was overthrown from office in 1980 in a right-wing military coup.


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  21. Sugar Babies Screening. Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
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External links

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