Oct. 13, 2011 | Press Releases

Hilary Swank Apologizes—But Will She Keep Chechen Warlord’s Money?

NEW YORK (October 13, 2011)—Earlier today, actress Hilary Swank apologized in a written statement for attending Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday celebration. "I deeply regret attending this event," Swank said. "If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone."

Hilary Swank Apologizes—But Will She Keep Chechen Warlord’s Money?

"After five days of wall-to-wall criticism, this is weak, especially given that the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) sent a warning directly to Swank through her manager on September 26—a full ten days before the party,” said HRF’s Sarah Wasserman. “We offered to brief her, but her manager cut us short and responded that Hilary had no plans to attend. Her claim of ignorance is laughable. Worse, the video of her birthday wishes shows her boasting about her knowledge of Chechnya and how she ‘reads’ and ‘does her research.’ The more important question now is what is Swank going to do with the blood money paid from Kadyrov’s coffers? She sidesteps the issue completely.”

Jean-Claude Van Damme also attended the birthday party and received $1 million, according to Chechen authorities. Vanessa-Mae and Seal performed at Kadyrov’s birthday festivities and allegedly received $500,000 each for lending their name and credibility to Kadyrov.

Seal, who bills his appearance as a service to the Chechen people, serenading warlord Ramzan Kadyrov

Seal refuses to apologize and shows no indication that he will return the money. He tweeted on October 7th, "By going there, I played MUSIC for the Chechenyan [sic] people. I'm a MUSICIAN and would appreciate if you leave me out of your politics."

"Its outrageous. At least Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, and Beyoncé gave the money they received from performing for Gadhafi’s family to charity,” said Wasserman. “This isn’t a movie, this is real life: women are treated as objects in Chechnya, gays are executed, human rights defenders are routinely killed. Meanwhile, Hollywood royalty shows up, collects cash, and then says ‘sorry.’ ”

HRF’s position is that actions speak louder than words and that the celebrities in attendance should donate their lucrative fees to groups like Memorial, the human rights group whose last director was murdered by Kadyrov’s thugs, or the London-based Chechnya Peace Forum, which tirelessly works for human rights in Chechnya.

“How can Swank make a career off roles where she sticks up for human rights and then plan to keep the money she gets from a man whose security forces engage in sex slavery, serial rape, torture, forced disappearances, and international assassinations?” Wasserman concluded.

HRF is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that protects and promotes human rights globally, with an expertise in the Americas. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Václav Havel, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Sarah Wasserman, Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486, info@thehrf.org

Read the letter HRF sent to Shakira (English and Spanish).