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
1 June 2016 Mitsubishi Materials Apologizes to Miners

The Japanese company Mitsubishi Materials apologizes for forcing Chinese workers to labor in its mines during World War II and agrees to compensate three surviving former laborers.

Ramzy, Austin. “Mitsubishi Materials Apologizes to Chinese World War II Laborers.” New York Times. June 1, 2016. 650
9 June 2016 United States Apologies to Qatar for Soldier's Insults

The U.S. ambassador to Qatar apologizes after a video shows U.S. soldiers appearing to insult the country.

Koran, Laura. “U.S. apologizes to Qatar for video of laughing American sodiers.” CNN. June 9, 2016.
27 June 2016 Turkey Apologies for Shooting Down Russian Plane

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey writes to Russian President Vladimir Putin to apologize for shooting down a Russian war plane in November, 2015.

Tavernise, Sabrina. “Seeking to Improve Ties With Russia, Turkey Apologized for Downing Warplane.” New York Times. June 27, 2016.
27 June 2016 Pope Seeks Apology for Gay Community

Pope Francis said that the Christians should apologize to gays and others who faced discrimination.

Gallagher, Delia and Daniel Burke. “Pope says Christians should apologize to gay people.” CNN. June 27, 2016.
1 August 2016 Taiwan to Aboriginal Residents

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan apologizes to the country’s 540,000 aboriginal residents for centuries of mistreatment and discrimination.

Ramzy, Austin. “Taiwan’s President Apologizes to Aborigines for Centuries of Injustice.” New York Times. August 1, 2016.
11 August 2016 Canada Suggests Forthcoming Apology to Gay Community

Canadian government officials say that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon apologize for the country’s historic persecution of gay people.

Ibbitson, John. “Justin Trudeau to apologize for historical persecution of gay Canadians.” Globe and Mail. August 11, 2016.
2016 Patriarch of Eritrean Church Claims Government Staged False Apology

In Eritrea, supporters of the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Abune Antonios, claim that the government staged a false apology from him in order to resolve the embarrassment of his ten year imprisonment.

Wood, Mark. “Eritrea accused of staging false apology from imprisoned patriarch.” Christian Today. August 12, 2016.
12 August 2016 United States Apologies to Indian Actor Shah Rukh Khan

The American Ambassador to India apologizes after the popular Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan is detained at a U.S. airport for the third time in recent years.

Victor, Daniel. “Shah Rukh Khan, ‘King of Bollywood,’ Was Detained at a U.S. Airport for the Third Time.” New York Times. August 12, 2016.
22 November 2016 Gay Governmental Employees

In announcing that Canada will make a uniform age of sexual consent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hints at a future apology for gay governmental employees who lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation.

"Righting a Wrong.” Montreal Gazette. November 22, 2016.
17 December 2016 Japanese Condolences for Pearl Harbor

In an appearance with President Obama at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers condolences but not an apology for the 1941 attack.

Schmidt, Michael S. “Japanese Leader Offers Condolences in Visit to Pearl Harbor.” New York Times. December 27, 2016.
28 December 2016 Colobmian Congress approves FARC Amnesty

The Colombian Congress approves a law offering amnesty to the Farc guerilla group for some crimes committed in the country’s decades-long conflict.

“Colombia approves amnesty agreed in Farc peace deal.” BBC.com December 28, 2016.
5 February 2016 Church of Sweden admits to running racist schools for Sami children.

The Church of Sweden confesses to running segregated, racist “nomad” schools for indigenous Sami children from 1913 to 1962

Gledhill, Ruth. “Church of Sweden apologizes for ‘racist’ schooling of indigenous Sami children.” www.christiantoday.com February 5, 2016.
29 December 2016 Germany and Namibia discuss compensation

Germany and Namibia engage in talks about a future apology and compensation for tens of thousands of deaths during colonial rule, particularly the Herero and Nama ethnic groups.

Onishi, Norimitsu. “Germany Grapples With its African Genocide.” New York Times. December 29, 2016.
November 2016 ISIS apology to Israel

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon reveals that the Islamic State (Daesh) apologized to Israel for opening fire on an Israeli unit in the Syrian Golan Heights in November.

Gross, Judah Ari. “Ex-defense minister says IS ‘apologized’ to Israel for November clash.” Times of Israel. April 24, 2017.