Political Apologies

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.

Displaying 251 - 275 of 823
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
15 September 1999 Roman Catholic Church-“Duplessis Orphans”

Roman Catholic Church officials in Quebec announce that they will not apologize to aging “Duplessis Orphans” who suffered years of abuse while under the care of the church from the 1930s through the 1950s

“No Apology To Orphans, Quebec Church Says.” New York Times. September 16, 1999.
1 October 1999 South Korean demonstrators demand that the U.S. apologize

South Korean demonstrators demand that the U.S. apologize for American soldiers allegedly killing hundreds of civilians in 1950 at the start of the Korean War.

Sims, Calvin. “South Koreans Call on U.S. to Apologize For Killings.” New York Times. October 2, 1999.
4 October 1999 Israel- the suffering of the Palestinian people

 In an address to the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak expresses sympathy and regret for the suffering of the Palestinian people but denies Israeli guilt or responsibility for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Barak Addresses Plenum.” Israel Line. Israeli Consulate, NY. October 5, 1999.
9 November 1999 The Britain-Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Attack

The British government apologizes to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe concerning a group of gay activists who attacked him in London to protest alleged human rights abuses in his country.

“Mugabe Gets Official Apology for British Gays’ Behaviour.” Africa News Service. November 10, 1999.
12 November 1999 Palestinian Authority apologize for statements

The Palestinian Authority apologizes for statements made by Suha Arafat in Ramallah during a meeting with U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in Ramallah in which Ms. Arafat accused Israel of poisoning the air and polluting the water

“Suha’s remarks prompt apology.” United Press International. November 15, 1999.
23 November 1999 USA- Kosovo Albanians to try to forgive Serbs

 In Kosovo, U.S. President Bill Clinton urges Kosovo Albanians to try to forgive Serbs for Slobodan Milosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing: “No one can force you to forgive what was done to you.  But you must try.

Lacey, Marc. “Clinton, Saluting Kosovo Albanians, Urges Forgiveness.” New York Times. November 23, 1999.
29 November 1999 USA apologizes to the family of the late Edward A. Carter Jr.

Gen. John Keane, the Army vice chief of staff, apologizes to the family of the late Edward A. Carter Jr., a World War II veteran, for secretly investigating him as a suspected communist and barring him from re-enlisting in 1949. The Army had determined the charges of disloyalty had no basis in fact, so the Army Board for Correction of Military Records corrected all of Carter's military records.  His family is to be presented with three posthumous awards for Carter's conduct and service in Germany during World War II.

Carter, Edward A., Jr. “Army Issues Official Apology to Wronged World War II Medal Of Honor Winner.” Jet. November 29, 1999.
10 December 1999 Switerland government -World War II,

The Swiss government reiterates a 1995 apology over wrong doings during World War II, but refuses to offer compensation to Jewish refugees who were turned back at the Swiss border at that time.

“Switzerland Repeats 1995 Apology Over Deeds During World War Two.” Xinhua News Agency. December 10, 1999.
11 December 1999 Native Hawaiians-USA overthrow of Hawaiian Monachy

At a hearing with federal officials in Honolulu, Native Hawaiians demand some form of redress for the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by the U.S.

“Native Hawaiians Seek Redress for U.S. Role in Ousting Queen.” New York Times. December 11, 1999.
18 December 1999 Catholic Church execution of religious reformer Jan Hus

 Pope John Paul II apologizes for the execution of religious reformer Jan Hus in 1415.

Stanley, Allesandra. “Italy: Jan Hus apology.” New York Times. December 18, 1999.
26 January 2000 Leaders of the international Pagan community send a letter to Pope John Paul II calling for the inclusion of Pagans in the Vatican's upcoming millennial apology for the Inquisition

Leaders of the international Pagan community send a letter to Pope John Paul II calling for the inclusion of Pagans in the Vatican's upcoming millennial apology for the Inquisition.

“World pagan leaders Call for Papal Apology.” Us Newswire. January 26, 2000.
5 February 2000 Oklahoma state commission-1921 race riot in Tulsa

An Oklahoma state commission (the Tulsa Race Riot Commission) recommends reparations for survivors of a 1921 race riot in Tulsa.

Yardley, Jim. “Panel Recommends Reparations In Long-Ignored Tulsa Race Riot.” New York Times. February 5, 2000.
14 February 2000 Austria-Hitler's employment policies

Austrian politician Joerg Haider apologizes for giving offense by praising Hitler's employment policies and former members of the Waffen SS.

Time. February 14, 2000.
17 February 2000 German-Israel The Holocaust

German President Johannes Rau apologizes before the Israeli parliament for the Holocaust.

Sontag, Deborah. “Israel: Germany apology.” New York Times. February 17, 2000.
28 February 2000 Lebanese Hezbollah-French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin apology

 A leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah demands that French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin apologize for calling guerrilla attacks against Israeli occupation troops "terrorist" acts.

“Hezbollah Leader Demands Apology from French PM.” Xinhua News Agency. February 28, 2000.
March 2000 Aetna Inc.- profits from slavery

Aetna Inc. apologizes for profiting from slavery by issuing insurance policies on slaves in the 1850s.

Zielbauer, Paul. “A Newspaper Apologizes for Salve-Era Ads.” New York Times. July 6, 2000.
12 March 2000 Catholic Church asks forgiveness for the sins of Catholics

 Pope John Paul II asks forgiveness for the sins of Catholics throughout the ages.  During a public Mass of Pardon, the Pope says that "Christians...have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions..."

Menendez, Jorge Fernando. “The Pope’s Apology.” World Press Review. May, 2000.
17 March 2000 USA- Iran Reconciliation

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announces steps to reconcile with Iran and to encourage modernization there.  Stopping short of an apology, she acknowledged past American meddling in Iran and expressed regrets for supporting Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Lancaster, John. “U.S. Plans Major Gesture To Iran.” Washington Post. March 17, 2000.
22 March 2000 The Netherlands- Jews, Gypsies and Indonesians

The Netherlands apologizes to Jews, Gypsies and Indonesians for a “chilly” official response in the past to their claims to property seized during and after World War II.  Prime Minister Wim Kok offers $180 million, in addition to past restitutions, to the Central Jewish Congress, while Gypsies receive an extra $13 million, and Indonesians who sided with the Dutch during Indonesia's fight for independence in 1949 are offered $110 million.

Simons, Marlise. “Netherlands: 3 apologies.” New York Times. March 22, 2000.
6 April 2000 North Korea-Japan Japanese Rule

At the start of the first talks between North Korea and Japan in eight years, North Korea says that negotiations will fail unless Japan agrees to an apology and compensation for its decades of rule.

“North Korea Firm on Apology From Japan.” New York Times. April 6, 2000.
7 April 2000 Austria-political haven to former Nazis

 The Austrian government apologizes for having provided a political haven to former Nazis after World War II.

Cohen, Roger. “Austria: apology over ex-Nazis.” New York Times. April 7, 2000.
8 April 2000 Belgium asks forgiveness for the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda

Belgium asks forgiveness for the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

“Rwanda: Belgian Apology.” New York Times. April 8, 2000.
15 April 2000 Diocese of Oakland - victims of clergy sexual abuse

Bishop John S. Cummins and other leaders of the Diocese of Oakland publicly apologize to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

“Oakland Diocesan Service Offers Apology for Clergy Sex Abuse.” America. April 15, 2000.
18 April 2000 Catholic Church rejects a call by gay-rights activists for an apology from the Catholic Church

The official Vatican newspaper rejects a call by gay-rights activists for an apology from the Catholic Church.

“Vatican Publication Rejects Apology For Homosexuals.” Africa News Service. April 18, 2000.
18 May 2000 Japan secularism

 Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori apologizes for controversial remarks that undermined the country’s constitutional guarantee of secularism, when he told a Shinto religious group that Japan was a “divine country with an emperor at its core.”

French, Howard W. “Japan: Premier’s Apology.” New York Times. May 18, 2000.