Feb 23, 2021

NEW YORK — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) mourns the passing of Ivar Amundsen, a diplomat, businessman, and human rights activist.

“With Ivar’s passing, the world has lost a moral giant and powerful spokesman for compassion and human rights,” said HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov.

“Ivar was a passionate defender of human rights and democracy all across the world, and worked tirelessly to advance the cause of peace and freedom in Chechnya. Ivar will be deeply missed by the HRF community. He will always be remembered as a dear friend and beloved member of the Oslo Freedom Forum family,” said HRF President Thor Halvorssen.

Amundsen was the director of the Chechnya Peace Forum, a Norwegian human rights organization which seeks to promote the cause of democracy and human rights in Chechnya.

Amundsen deeply believed that democratic reform was possible throughout Eastern Europe and in Russia, and he dedicated his life to exposing authoritarianism and corruption. He was a champion of individual rights, and through his hard work and resilience, earned the respect of many. In Oslo, Amundsen mediated talks between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’s government-in-exile and the pro-Moscow Chechen Republic, hoping to bring national reconciliation to a region ravaged by war. Amundsen bravely spoke out against genocide in the Balkans and was named the Honorary Consul of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Oslo, Norway.

Since 2009, Amundsen participated in HRF’s Oslo Freedom Forum, and used the platform to discuss the crisis facing post-Soviet Chechnya in his introduction of Akhmed Zakayev, the nation’s leader-in-exile. Watch Amundsen’s talk here. Little did anyone in the audience realize that Prime Minister Zakayev, a widely known target of Russian government assassination, had been spirited into Norway in Amundsen’s car after Amundsen was told by friendly admirers in the Norwegian government that Zakayev would not be allowed into Norway to speak at the Forum — the Norwegian government did not want to create an incident with the Kremlin and was expecting Zakayev to appear at the airport. Undaunted, Amundsen hid Zakayev in Oslo and triumphantly introduced him at OFF in full view of Norwegian diplomats in attendance. Zakayev subsequently attended multiple OFF events without incident.

“Ivar was fearless, consistent, and had the heart of a lion in the defense of those vulnerable to government oppression. And he worked quietly, effectively, and always with a charming sense of humor. We will profoundly miss him,” said Halvorssen.


The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. For press inquiries, contact [email protected]