Political Apologies Archive

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Date of Apology Title Summary Source
12 November 2016 2015: Serbia gives $7.1 million to Srebrenica,

Serbia gives $7.1 million to Srebrenica, to atone for the slaughter of some 8,000 Muslims there twenty years ago.

“Bosnia: Serbia gives $7.1M to Srebrenica.” Montreal Gazette. November 12, 2015.
28 December 2016 2015: South Korea- Japan issues an apology and an $8.3 million payment for the Imperial Army’s use of “comfort women”

 In an agreement with South Korea, Japan issues an apology and an $8.3 million payment for the Imperial Army’s use of “comfort women” during World War II

Sang-Hun, Choe. “Japan and South Korea Settle Dispute Over Wartime ‘Comfort Women.’” New York Times. December 28, 2015.
1 January 2016 2016: North Korean - reconciliation with South Korea

 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says he is willing to discuss reconciliation with South Korea.

Sang-Hun, Choe. “Kim Jong-un Talks of Reconciliation in New Year’s Speech.” New York Times. January 1, 2016.
13 January 2016 2016: Iran USA-10 American soldiers who entered Iranian waters

 Iran claims that the U.S. apologized after 10 American soldiers entered Iranian waters and were arrested before being released.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denies there was an apology.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/12096275/Iran-holds-two-US-Navy-boats-in-Persian-Gulf.html
16 January 2016 2016: USA clemency seven for men of Iranian in the USA

President Barack Obama grants clemency (but not a pardon) to seven men of Iranian origin either facing criminal charges or serving criminal sentences in the U.S., after which Iran releases five Americans whom it had held.

Gerstein, Josh. “Obama grants clemency to seven in Iran deal.” Politico.com. January 16, 2016.
19 January 2016 2016: USA- residents of the city of Flint contaminated drinking water crisis

  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder apologizes to the residents of the city of Flint for the contaminated drinking water crisis, saying “Government failed you at the federal, state, and local level.”

Durando, Jessica. “How water crisis in Flint, Mich., became federal state of emergency.” USAToday.com. January 19, 2016.
19 January 2016 2016: Swedish activist Peter Dahlin - Chinese state TV work with human rights lawyers

 Swedish activist Peter Dahlin issues an apology on Chinese state TV for his work with human rights lawyers.

Lewis, Simon. “Swedish Activist Shown ‘Confessing’ on Chinese State Television.” Time.com. January 19, 2016.
29 January 2016 2016: Japan atrocities of the Japanese military in World War II.

January 29, 2016:  During a visit to the Philippines, Japanese Emperor Akihito expresses remorse for the atrocities of the Japanese military in World War II.  But surviving “comfort women” protest the lack of an apology specifically to the victims of sexual slavery.

 

 
Whaley, Floyd. “In Philippines, World War II’s Lesser-Known Sex Slaves Speak Out.” New York Times. January 29, 2016.
10 February 2016 2016: USA Delawares role in slavery

 Delaware Governor Jack Markell signs a resolution apologizing for Delaware’s role in slavery and wrongs committed against African Americans in the Jim Crowe era.

Associated Press. “Delaware governor to sign resolution apologizing for slavery.” February 10, 2016.
29 February 2016 2016: USA Otto Warmbier, detained in North Korea,

U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, detained in North Korea, issues an apology for trying to steal a political banner.

Sang-Hun, Choe. “Otto Warmbier, Detained U.S. student, Apologizes in North Korea.” New York Times. February 29, 2016.
21 March 2016 2016. USA Philadelphia Racism -African American baseball player Jackie Robinson

Philadelphia City Council passes a resolution officially apologizing for the virulent racism and hate that was directed towards the first African American baseball player Jackie Robinson when he visited the city for a game in 1947.  The apology is to be presented to Robinson’s widow.

Reilly, Katie. “Philadelphia Issues Apology to Jackie Robinson for Racism.” Time.com. March 31, 2016.
24 March 2016 2016: USA-Brutality of Argentina’s “dirty war” in the 1970s and 1980s

 President Barack Obama expresses regret for the failure of the U.S. to acknowledge the brutality of Argentina’s “dirty war” in the 1970s and 1980s.

Davis, Julie. “Obama Expresses Regret for U.S. Policies During Argentina’s ‘Dirty War.’” New York Times. March 24, 2016.
27 March 2016 2016: USA federal judge-nurse sentenced in 2003 to 15 months in prison for insurance fraud

 U.S. federal judge John Gleeson issues a non-binding “federal certificate of rehabilitation” for a nurse whom he sentenced in 2003 to 15 months in prison for insurance fraud, in order to vouch for her character and thereby make it easier for her to obtain employment despite her criminal record.  

 

Wegman, Jesse. “A Federal Judge’s New Model for Forgiveness.” New York Times. March 16, 2016.
1 April 2016 2016: South African President Jacob Zuma -violation of the the Constitution

 South African President Jacob Zuma apologizes after the country’s highest court ruled that he had violated the Constitution.

Onishi, Norimitsu. “Jacob Zuma Says He’ll Repay South Africa for Home Improvements. New York Times. April 1, 2016.
29 April 2016 Auschwitz Guard Reinhold Hanning Apologies

On trial for being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people, 94-year old Reinhold Hanning says he is “sincerely sorry” for failing to prevent tens of thousands of deaths while he was a guard at the Auschwitz death camp in 1942-1944.  He says, “I am ashamed that I witnessed injustice and allowed it to continue without taking actions against it.”

Eddy, Melissa. “Former Auschwitz Guard Apologizes at Trial in Germany.” New York Times. April 29, 2016.
10 May 2016 Settlement for Residential School Survivors in Canada

Lawyers announce a $50 million settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by hundreds of survivors of residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador against the Canadian federal government.  Many survivors also expressed the desire for an apology.

Kelland, Ariana and Mark Quinn. “N.L. residential school survivors’ lawyers reach $50M settlement with Ottawa.” CBC News. May 10, 2016.
18 May 2016 Canada Apologies for Komagata Maru Incident

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which 376 South Asians were refused entry to Canada. (Prime Minister Harper had also apologized for it in 2008.)  

O’Neil, Peter. “PM gives apology for Komagata Maru.” Montreal Gazette. May 19, 2016.
25 May 2016 Hiroshima Survivors Seek Apology

In advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, Japan, Korean survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seek an apology.  (One-fifth of the victims were Koreans, most of whom had been taken to Japan as forced laborers.) 

Sang-Hun, Choe. “Korean Survivors of Atomic Bombs Renew Right for Recognition, and Apology.” New York Times. May 25, 2016.
25 May 2016 United States Apologies for Murder of Japanese Woman

President Barack Obama expresses “sincerest condolences and deepest regrets” for the murder of a Japanese woman in Okinawa by a U.S. marine.

Kepnes, Jeff. “Obama apologizes for Okinawa incident.” CNN. May 25, 2016.
30 May 2016 Ontario Apologies to Indigenous Peoples

Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, Canada apologizes for harm done to indigenous peoples at residential schools.

“Ontario Apologizes for Residential Schools.” News Release, Office of the Premier. Toronto, ON. May 30, 2016.