Here's one award the stars don't want to win

It's Oscar night, and Forbes magazine wants readers to vote for the celebrities who have done the least for the cause of human rights

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The Independent Culture

As Hollywood prepares for the most important night in its calendar, some of the film industry's biggest names are about to make an appearance on perhaps the least glamorous shortlist of this, or any other, awards season. Readers of Forbes magazine are being asked to identify which movie stars have done the least this year to contribute to the cause of human rights.

The 12 contenders for this ignoble new award were named on the magazine's website last night, after being identified during an auditing process carried out by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), an Oslo-based campaigning organisation. Among them are Hilary Swank, who recently accepted a paid invitation to the birthday party of Chechnya's brutal dictator Ramzan Kadyrov (although she later apologised and said her fee would be donated to charity), and Beyoncé, who a year ago performed for Muammar Gaddafi's wife-beating son, Hannibal.

The list, which like all of its kind is strongly subjective, also contains some surprise entries. Sean Penn, for years considered one of Hollywood's foremost humanitarians, is offered for the consideration of voters on account of his close relationship with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

"How can Sean Penn possibly justify becoming a PR agent of major human rights violators like Fidel Castro?" asks the HRF's founder, Thor Halvorssen. "This a man who has tortured tens of thousands of people and had opponents put to death by firing squads."

Alongside its shortlist of villains, the HRF has identified a selection of potential "heroes" which readers are being offered a chance to endorse. George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who are both nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, appear on it thanks to their tireless work to combat genocide in Sudan.

Last year's Best Actor Colin Firth is also on the "hero" list, thanks to his support for Survival International, a pressure group for the rights of indigenous communities. And 2011's Best Supporting Actor, Christian Bale, is praised for drawing attention to the excesses of the Chinese government.

Readers of the magazine have been asked to vote for which of the 12 "villains" and 40 "heroes" are worthiest of recognition. The most, and least, "outstanding performance in the service of human rights" will be unveiled next month.

"Plenty of celebrities are happy to do charity work, and that's perfectly fine," added Mr Halvorssen. "But what we're trying to do is give proper attention to the ones who are actually risking something."