HRF introduces new branding
HRF launched an entirely new brand that combines all of its work into one cohesive design built around our core personality—bold, sharp, and human.
Flash Drives for Freedom reaches 600 million impressions
More than two years into the campaign, Flash Drives For Freedom continues to receive high profile coverage including the front page of Reddit and almost every major news outlet, with a $0 media budget.
2018 Havel prize awarded
Winners of the 2018 prize include Emmanuel Jal, the Belarus Free Theatre, and Mai Khôi.
Flash Drives for Freedom named top 15 pr campaigns in the world
Flash Drives for Freedom was honored at the 2018 One Show with a Silver in the Public Relations category.
Oslo Freedom Forum 10 year anniversary
HRF celebrated its 10th Anniversary of the Oslo Freedom Forum in May.
Nicolas Cage exposé
HRF urged actor Nicolas Cage to rescind his support for Kazakhstan’s authoritarian government, resulting in widespread press coverage of the regime’s human rights abuses.
Thae Yong-ho speaks at off
North Korean defector Thae Yong-Ho, the highest-ranking official to ever escape North Korea, sent an exclusive video message to the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum arguing that outside information is the best way to challenge the Kim regime.
HRF testifies before the US Senate
In July, HRF testified before the U.S. Senate on the activities of Fusion GPS, a DC-based strategy company that coordinated smear campaigns against investigative journalists and whistleblowers on behalf of Venezuelan- controlled Derwick Associates.
Successful petition to the OAS
In March, HRF called on the OAS to activate the “democracy clause” in Venezuela. Two months later, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro denounced the crimes of the regime in his talk at the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum.
Flash Drives for Freedom wins the prestigious D&AD Impact Award
Flash Drives for Freedom was honored at the 2018 D&AD Impact Awards.
Launched Art in Protest
Launched new project, Art In Protest, in April with an exhibition in San Francisco featuring work by Cuban dissident graffiti artist El Sexto.
Launched Free Speech Unlimited
Officially launched Free Speech Unlimited project in March with a panel discussion at RightsCon Brussels.
Evan Mawarire campaign
Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire Released from prison in February after an international campaign and HRF’s request to the UNWGAD to investigate his arbitrary detention by the Mugabe regime.
El Sexto released
Cuban graffiti artist El Sexto released from prison in January after HRF submitted a complaint to the Un Working Group On Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD).
Launched Sages Group
HRF partnered with the Yonsei Center for Human Liberty to launch the Sages Group On North Korean Human Rights In The U.S.
Atlantic Council Exposé
Published article in Foreign Policy exposing the Atlantic Council’s whitewashing of Gabonese president Ali Bongo Ondimba after the prominent think tank honored him with an award in September.
Second San Francisco Forum
HRF celebrated its 10th Anniversary in September during the second San Francisco Freedom Forum.
Waleed Abulkhair campaign
Published legal report in July and an op-ed in The Washington Post on prisoner of conscience Waleed Abulkhair, who was jailed for “inciting public opinion” through online posts challenging Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship.
Global Coalition for North Korean Human Rights Act
Months after launching the Global Coalition For The North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA), which establishes support for civic groups working on North Korean human rights issues and the creation of an institution to document the crimes of the regime, the NKHRA was approved by South Korea’s parliament.
USA Today names HRF a highlight of SXSW
Hosted panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) on “How To Free North Korea With Technology” that was later praised by USA today as “one of the highlights of SXSW.”
College Freedom Forum in Guatemala
Held first international College Freedom Forum at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala in March.
Launched Flash Drives for Freedom
Launched Flash Drives For Freedom, a campaign that has collected more than 125,000 flash drives to be loaded with outside information and sent into North Korea.
Thulani Maseko campaign
Successfully campaigned for the release of Oslo Freedom Forum speaker and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko in June, who was jailed for writing an op-ed criticizing Swaziland’s corrupt judicial system.
Nicki Minaj exposé
Brought human rights abuses of the Angolan dictatorship into the international spotlight with widespread coverage of a Nicki Minaj concert there in December, including a feature on the cover of the New York Post.
College Freedom Forums
Held College Freedom Forums at Stanford and Yale Universities.
Launched Russian Download
Launched The Russia Download, a weekly email digest aimed at informing policymakers and media about the human rights situation in Russia.
HRF receives Magnitsky Award
Received Sergei Magnitsky Award for “Outstanding Human Rights Activism” in November.
Lionel Messi Exposé
Drew global attention to human rights violations and corruption in the Central African country of Gabon by challenging a PR trip by Argentine football star Lionel Messi in July.
El Sexto Campaign
Successfully campaigned for the release of Cuban graffiti artist and prisoner of conscience Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as El Sexto, in October.
Launched "Your Human Rights"
Launched global guides on “Your Human Rights,” a series of blueprints for freedom to be shared among dissidents in closed societies.
Second College Freedom Forums
Held College Freedom Forum at the University Of Colorado Boulder.
Hack Them Back Campaign
Launched Hack Them Back, an online crowdfunding campaign responding to the pro-North Korean cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which raised more than $50,000 to flood North Korea with outside information.
Erykah Badu exposé
Launched campaign denouncing Erykah Badu’s performance at the birthday celebration of Swaziland’s King Mswati III in April that broke through to popular culture with Bet, E!, Billboard, and The Hollywood Reporter. This led to her cancelling her performance in the dictatorship of The Gambia.
Hack North Korea
Hosted Hack North Korea, a two-day gathering of more than 100 technologists, engineers, venture capitalists, designers, coders, and North Korean defectors for the world’s first North Korea-focused hackathon in August.
Launched Free Speech Unlimited
Launched Free Speech Unlimited, a comparative legal research project to persuade decision-makers and the public to embrace the highest possible legal standard for the protection of free speech.
HRF's North Korea work begins
Visited South Korea in June and began supporting North Korean defector groups sending information into North Korea.
2013 Havel Prize
Awarded Havel Prize to Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat, North Korean defector and democracy activist Park Sang Hak, and Cuban civil society group the Ladies In White.
Kazakhastan United Nations petition
Published legal report in July on crackdown on independent media in Kazakhstan and submitted legal petition to the United Nations on the matter.
First College Freedom Forum
Launched College Freedom Forum at Tufts University in November, bringing the experience of the Oslo Freedom Forum to college campuses.
Kanye West exposé
HRF makes international headlines by condemning celebrities including Jennifer Lopez and Kanye West for performing for dictators, bringing attention to human rights violations in Angola, Turkmenistan, China, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
Maria Lourdes Afiuni campaign
Released legal report in January on Venezuelan judge and prisoner of conscience María Lourdes Afiuni, who was arrested for asserting her independence as a judge, aiding in a campaign that resulted in her release in June.
San Francisco Freedom Forum
Held first San Francisco Freedom Forum in September, bringing together Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with Bay Area thinkers and doers.
Mariah Carey exposé
Exposed abuses of Angola’s dictatorship through a media campaign in December to challenge Mariah Carey’s performance in the country.
Urban Outfitters campaign
Leveraged media in September to pressure clothing store Urban Outfitters to pull from its shelves a shirt featuring Che Guevara, one of the architects of Cuba’s totalitarian regime.
The First Havel Prize
Awarded first Václav Havel International Prize For Creative Dissent to Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal Al-Sharif in May.
United Nations on Venezuela
Published legal report in September on Venezuela’s lack of judicial independence and submitted it to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges.
Launched successful campaign in August to expose the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation for its PR work to promote the Obiang dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea.
The Kasparov Era Begins
Garry Kasparov, a world renowned chess player and Russian human rights activist, became HRF chairman in May.
Leopoldo Lopez campaign
Filed influential amicus curiae brief in March with the Inter-American Court Of Human Rights in the case of Leopoldo López v. Venezuela.
Emilio Palacio campaign
Published legal report in October and appealed to Ecuador’s supreme court in defense of press freedom for publisher Emilio Palacio, who was fined $40 million after publishing an op-ed calling President Correa a “dictator.”
Congressional Human Rights Academy
Hosted Congressional Human Rights Academy in Washington, D.C., in March to connect legislators and their advisors with political prisoners and human rights advocates.
Successfully lobbied Shakira in September to not attend Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday, and criticized Hilary Swank And Jean-Claude Van Damme for attending the celebration, drawing international attention to the Chechen dictatorship’s human rights abuses.
Ruben Gonzalez campaign
Successfully campaigned for the release of prisoner of conscience and Venezuelan union leader Ruben González in March after a joint advocacy venture with the AFL-CIO.
Invited to attend the Nobel Awards
Attended Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in December as a guest of Chinese laureate and prisoner of conscience Liu Xiaobo, who was jailed for his pro-democracy writings.
Oslo Scholars launches
Launched Oslo Scholars program in May, giving university students the opportunity to work with Oslo Freedom Forum speakers and attend the forum.
Quang Do interview
Visited Vietnam in March to interview imprisoned religious leader Thich Quang Do, who was put under house arrest for his peaceful protests against the regime.
Center for Law & Democracy opens its doors
Created Center For Law And Democracy program in March and published a 300-page legal report on the Honduran democracy crisis.
Fighting General Insulza
Called for the resignation of OAS Secretary General Insulza for aiding the authoritarian president of Honduras and escalating the crisis weeks prior to the coup. Launched Insulza.com in March to prevent his reelection as secretary general.
The Havel Era begins
Founding HRF international council member and Czech dissident Václav Havel became chairman in August.
Honduran coup d’etat
HRF was the first international organization to call on the OAS to suspend the Honduran government after the June Coup D’etat.
The inception of the Oslo Freedom Forum
Held inaugural Oslo Freedom Forum in May, with keynotes by Elie Wiesel and Václav Havel.
First Global Guide
Published major report on political violence in Bolivia in October.
Guadalupe Llori campaign
Successfully campaigned for the release of prisoner of conscience Guadalupe Llori, an Ecuadorean indigenous leader jailed for criticizing President Rafael Correa.
Began campaign in August to hold Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza accountable for failing to sanction Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua for eroding democratic institutions and violating the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Tell Chavez campaign
Launched Tell Chávez campaign in July with an online petition requesting the release of political prisoners in Venezuela.
The Sugar Babies documentary
Produced “THE SUGAR BABIES,” a documentary that premiered in June and exposed the human trafficking of Haitian families into the Dominican Republic’s sugar fields.
Free RCTV campaign
Established Free RCTV campaign in May to expose censorship of independent media in Venezuela.
Began production and distribution of “Tus Derechos Humanos,” an educational human rights guide for Cubans.
The Defense Begins
Took on first political prisoner case in December, defending Francisco Usón, a Venezuelan citizen persecuted for criticizing the government on television, in December.
A board is born
Board created from authors and former political prisoners, including Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and Tibetan dissident Palden Gyatso.
Our First Chairman
Former Cuban prisoner of conscience and diplomat Armando Valladares became HRF’s first chairman in March.
Out of hardship grows a new foundation
Halvorssen’s only recourse was to create an entity that could fight for the rights others were unable to protect. HRF incorporated on April 12, 2005, in Washington, D.C., with the pro bono assistance of Ron Jacobs, Venable LLP.
The shot heard around no where
On February 1, 2005, our founder’s mother was shot by the Venezuelan government while she was protesting their corruption in the streets. But no matter what Thor Halvorssen did, no one would take action to hold the Venezuelan government accountable.