October 13th, 2011
10:28 AM ET
Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme were two actors in attendance at Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's 35th birthday party on October 5, but Swank says in a statement to CNN that she had no idea that's what she was attending.
Both the actress and Van Damme were criticized by human rights organizations for celebrating with Kadyrov, and asked to return any money or gifts they may have received.
However, a statement from Swank's publicist says that she wasn't there to attend a fete for the Chechen president but rather an "opening of a new residential and commercial complex in Grozny City, including the largest sports complex in southern Russia." The deciding factor for her to go was that the event "was described to her as a symbol of hope for the people of Chechnya," and that was a sentiment she wanted to support.
The statement goes on to say that when she got there, she was asked to wish Kadyrov happy birthday, which the statement says she did because she didn't want to be rude.
The Human Rights Watch said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter earlier this week that they warned Swank not to attend this event, claiming that "Kadyrov is linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses" and that it's "inappropriate for stars to get paid to party with him."
Her publicist, however, says that Swank was unaware of the allegations against Kadyrov, and that she's never met him.
"I deeply regret attending this event, which has thrown into question my long and deeply-held commitment to the protection of human rights," Swank says in the statement. "I would never intentionally do anything that raised doubts about such commitment. I will continue to donate my time and my financial resources not only to the charities with which I am currently affiliated, but also those dedicated to the preservation of human rights. If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone.”
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