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 551 - 575 of 823
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
5 February 2009 India chief minister takes moral responsibility for mosque demolition.

In India, 17 years after the demolition of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and former BJP leader Kalyan Singh take “moral responsibility” for the tragic event.

Hasan, M. “Kalyan Singh ‘sorry’ for Babri Masjid demolition.” Hindustan Times. February 5, 2009.
27 February 2009 Bishop Richard Williamson- Catholic church -The Holocaust

 The Vatican says deems insufficient the apology of Bishop Richard Williamson, who (shortly after the Pope had revoked his excommunication) denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust.

Donadio, Rachel. “Vatican Says Bishop’s Holocaust Apology Fell Short.” New York Times. February 28, 2009.
1 April 2009 Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav (aka Dutch) apologizes

At trial, former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav (aka Dutch) apologizes for the atrocities he committed in the 1970s.

Mydans, Seth. “Apology Offered at Khmer Rouge Trial.” New York Times. April 1, 2009.
26 April 2009 Catholic Church suffering of thousands of aboriginal Canadians

Pope Benedict expresses sorrow for the suffering of thousands of aboriginal Canadians in residential schools operated by the Roman Catholic Church.

O’Neil, Peter. “Pope offers sympathy for residential school victims.” Montreal Gazette. April 29, 2009.
14 June 2009 Members of the Hatfield and McCoy families sign a truce

Members of the Hatfield and McCoy families sign a truce to officially end the deadly feud that dated to the 19th century.  (The feud essentially ended in 1891, and the families shook hands in 1976.)

“Official End Of Legendary Feud.” CBC News. February 11, 2009.
18 June 2009 The USA apologizes for slavery

 The U.S. Senate apologizes re. slavery (with a disclaimer about reparations).

Thompson, Krissah. “Senate Unanimously Approves Resolution Apologizing for Slavery.” Washington Post. June 19, 2009.
July 2009 U.S. Episcopal Church/ Queen Elizabeth repudiation of the late-15th century “Doctrine of Discovery”

Leaders of the U.S. Episcopal Church unanimously adopt a resolution calling on Queen Elizabeth (the formal head of the Church of England) to repudiate the late-15th century “Doctrine of Discovery” which led English explorers to seize Indian lands in the New World.

Boswell, Randy. “Church targets colonial arrogance.” Montreal Gazette. August 13, 2009. pA3.
7 July 2009 Japan regrets that Japan’s relationship with Canada was disrupted by World War II.

 In Ottawa, Emperor Akihito of Japan regrets that Japan’s relationship with Canada was disrupted by World War II.  He also says, “It saddens me that so many people experienced suffering and difficulties during the war.”

Blanchfield, Mike. “Akihito saddened by impact of Second World War.” Montreal Gazette. July 7, 2009.
August 2009 Former U.S. Army Lt. William Calley apologizes

  Former U.S. Army Lt. William Calley apologizes for the massacre of hundreds of civilians in My Lai, Vietnam in 1968.

Mackey, Robert. “An Apology for My Lai, Four Decades later.” New York Times. August 24, 2009.
14 September 2009 Britain-posthumous apology to mathematician Alan Turing

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issues a posthumous apology to mathematician Alan Turing, who helped break Nazi codes in World War II but was later convicted of “gross indecency” for a homosexual affair and forced to receive hormone injections.

Mackey, Robert. “Posthumous Apology to Gay Code Breaker Who Helped Defeat Nazi Germany.” New York Times. September 14, 2009.
16 October 2009 Australia- “Forgotten Australians” and former child migrants

The Australian parliament apologizes to “Forgotten Australians” and former child migrants.

http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/australia/biogs/FE00081b.htm. I am indebted to Cate O’Neill for this item.
1 November 2009 Georgia demands apology from Russia.

Georgia demands Russia issue an apology and compensation for shooting down a Georgian intelligence drone over Abkhazia in October.

“Georgia Demands Russian Apology, Compensation for Drone Shootdown.” VOA News. November 1, 2009.
17 November 2009 Goldman Sachs-the financial crisis

Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein apologizes for actions of the firm that helped create the financial crisis, saying “We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret and we apologize for them.”

Kiviat, Barbara. “Goldman Sachs tries to make amends.” http://www.business.time.com. November 18, 2009.
17 November 2009 Canadian parliament calls for his exoneration of Meti leader Louis Riel

 On the 124th anniversary of the hanging of Meti leader Louis Riel, a member of the Canadian parliament calls for his exoneration.

“MP wants exoneration for Riel.” Montreal Gazette. November 17, 2009.
29 November 2009 Peru apologizes to its citizens of African origin for centuries of “abuse

Peru apologizes to its citizens of African origin for centuries of “abuse, exclusion and discrimination.”

“Peru apologises for abuse of African-origin citizens.” www.bbc.com. November 29, 2009.
4 December 2009 Carter asks Jews for Forgiveness

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter asks the Jewish community for forgiveness after making comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that seemed to stigmatize Israel.

“Carter asks Jewish community for forgiveness.” CNN. December 24, 2009.
11 December 2009 Pope Benedict XVI apologizes for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests

Pope Benedict XVI apologizes for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

“Pope apologizes again.” Montreal Gazette. December 12, 2009.
19 December 2009 American President apologizes to Native peoples.

President Barack Obama signs into law a defense appropriations bill which contains an apology “on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native peoples by citizens of the United States.” The legislation also “urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land,” but Obama does not comment on the apology.

Capriccioso, Rob. “A sorry sage: Obama signs Native American apology resolution; fails to draw attention to it.” Indian Law. January 13, 2010; Bigpond, Negiel and Sam Brownback. “It’s long past time for our country to apologize for what it did to Native people.” Washington Post. July 6, 2021.
15 February 2010 Vatican Victims of child sex abuse by Irish clergy

Vatican officials acknowledge the “enormous injustice and cruelty” inflicted on victims of child sex abuse by Irish clergy.

Pullella, Philip. “Vatican summit to acknowledge child sex abuse by Irish clergy.” Montreal Gazette. February 15, 2010.
19 February 2010 USA South Dakota - proclamation for a Year of Unity, Reconciliation

South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds issues a proclamation for a Year of Unity, commemorating the state’s Year of Reconciliation in 1990.

Severin, Jackelyn. “Year of Unity.” South Dakota Public Broadcasting. February 19, 2010.
24 February 2010 Destruction of Africville, Nova Scotia

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly approves an apology and compensation for the destruction of the African American community of Africville, Nova Scotia in 1969

"Halifax apologizes for razing Africville." CBC. Feb. 24, 2010.
24 February 2010 British-“home children”

British Prime Minister Gordon Browne apologizes to “home children” for a government program that sent poor children from London abroad to labor in British colonies.

“British PM apologizes to ‘home children.’” www.cbc.ca. February 24, 2010.
14 March 2010 Israel apologizes for new housing in contested East Jerusalem

 Under pressure from the U.S., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologizes for the timing of an announcement – but not the policy – of new housing in contested East Jerusalem.

Kershner, Isabel. “Netanyahu Offers Apology, but No Shift in Policy.” New York Times. March 14, 2010.
20 March 2010 Catholic Church victims of church sex abuse, expressing “shame and remorse

 Pope Benedict XVI apologizes to victims of church sex abuse, expressing “shame and remorse.”

Donadio, Rachel. “Pope Offers Apology, but No Punishment, for Clergy’s Abuse in Ireland.” New York Times. March 21, 2010.
27 March 2010 Sierra Leone President apologizes to women.

On International Women’s Day, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma apologizes to women for the abuses they endured during the country’s 11-year civil war.

“President Koroma Apologizes to Sierra Leonean Women.” Sierra Express Media. March 29, 2010.