By NICK CLARK
Jennifer Lopez has been criticized by a US human rights organization for accepting lucrative fees to perform for ‘some of the world’s worst thugs’ The singer-turned-actress is reported to have pocketed fees of more than $10m (£6.6m) for ‘serenading crooks and dictators’, according to the Human Rights Foundation (HRF).
The claims will be hugely embarrassing after the singer, known as JLO, was condemned for performing at the birthday of Turkmenistan’s dictator, President Gurbanuly Berdymukhamedov last month. Human Rights Watch describes Turkmenistan as “one of the world’s most repressive countries” where “the authorities continue to use imprisonment as a tool for political retaliation”.
Following the criticism of her visit to Turkmenistan, Lopez’s publicist, Mark Young released a statement saying that “had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended”. Yet HRF said it had uncovered more paid performances by Lopez for questionable characters. Thor Halvorssen, the organization’s president, said she had “misled her fans and the public” and “repeatedly mingled with and entertained some of the world’s worst thugs and their cronies”.
Mr. Halvorssen said Lopez’s claim that she did not know of the accusations against Mr. Berdymukhamedov “may be credible in one instance (but) beggar belief in light of a pattern of repeated behaviour. This is not about ignorance, it’s about greed.” Lopez maintains that her team vetted the countries prior to her visits and The Independent was unable to reach her publicist for further comment at the time of going to press.
HRF lists a series of performances it claims Lopez has given in the past two years, including one for the Uzbek industrialist, Azam Aslanov (a man it describes as “corrupt”), who allegedly paid her $1m to sing at his son’s wedding, with the Chenchen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov among the guests.
Mr. Halvorssen said: “The collective outrage that now follows Lopez’s behaviour is a categorical signal that it is not right to enjoy a free society, and then seek to profit from those who have acquired their riches from cronyism and the wholesale negation of human rights.”
HRF said calls for her to donate the funds from her concert in Turkmenistan to charities engaged with human rights work “have been met with silence”.
JLO is not the first star to face criticism for taking lucrative payments to entertain figures allegedly involved in human rights abuses. In 2011, the Oscar-winning actress, Hilary Swank and the martial arts star, Jean-Claude Van Damme were guests at a party celebrating Mr Kadyrov’s 35th birthday, despite being warned by HRF that the Chechen regime had used torture. Swank later fired her manager following the outcry at her appearance at the party in Grozny
•Culled from The Independent