The Rafto Foundation was established in 1987 in memory of Thorolf Rafto (1922-1986), and to continue his work for and commitment to human rights.

THOROLF RAFTO (1922-1986)  

Thorolf Rafto was born in Bergen in 1922, and throughout his life was driven by curiosity and a sense of justice. As a professor of economic history at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH), he brought the whole world into his classroom, and taught that justice was a part of the curriculum. 

He devoted much of his life to the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights, especially in Eastern Europe, where he travelled extensively. Rafto was an important spokesman for the persecuted Jews and intellectuals in the former Soviet Union, and for political dissidents in other Eastern European countries.

Professor Rafto was not satisfied with a quiet and safe academic life. He took an active role in world issues. He had contacts with numerous dissidents from several nations, and was admired for his unshakeable integrity. 

In 1979, Thorolf Rafto was arrested in Prague after holding a lecture for young people who were excluded from the university for political reasons. He was beaten and otherwise maltreated by the security police, and suffered from the inflicted injuries for the rest of his life. He died on 4 November 1986, 64 years old.


The Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for Human Rights (the Rafto Prize) has been awarded every year since 1987. During the first few years, the Rafto Foundation was mainly concerned with the struggle for human rights in Eastern Europe, because of Professor Thorolf Rafto's egagement in the region. After the peaceful democratic revolutions that swept over Eastern Europe in 1989, the Rafto Foundation turned its attention further afield.

Egil Rafto was co-founder of the Rafto Foundation.
Egil Rafto was co-founder of the Rafto Foundation.


Rafto Human Rights House in Bergen was established in memory of Professor Thorolf Rafto's son Egil Rafto. Egil, as his father, had a heart for human rights and was active in running a number of humanitarian organisations, and co-founded the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights. He died in 1997, only 45 years old. The house was officially opened in 1999. 

The Rafto staff is based at the Rafto House in Bergen. The building also hosts the local offices of the Amnesty International in addition to offices and rooms for the educational work carried out by the foundation. The Rafto House is part of the Human Rights House Network.

The Egil Rafto House Foundation owns the Rafto House for Human Rights. Staff at the Rafto Foundation are in charge of the day-to-day administration of the Rafto House. The Board of the Egil Rafto House Foundation consists of Jan Ramstad and Dag Astrup Stiegler.

The Rafto House in Bergen
The Rafto House in Bergen