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 626 - 650 of 823
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
25 April 2013 Serbia Srebrenica massacre

 Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic apologizes for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and asks for pardon but refrains from describing the atrocity as genocide.

McElroy, Damien. “Serbian president in historic Srebrenica massacre apology.” www.bbc.com. April 25, 2013.
7 May 2013 USA Pennsylvania State Supreme Court -Justice Joan Orie Melvin to send a letter of apology

 In the U.S., a county court judge orders former Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin to send a letter of apology to every one of the hundreds of judges in the state for having abused her office and engaged in illegal activities during her campaigns.

“Pennsylvania: Ex-Judge Ordered to Apologize.” New York Times. May 7, 2013.
12 May 2013 France 150 Algerians Algeria’s war of independence

In Paris, 150 Algerians who fought for France during Algeria’s war for independence demand that French President Francois Hollande honor a campaign pledge to officially recognize heir abandonment by France during its retreat in 1962, which led to massacres

“Algerians Who Fought for France Want Recognition.” New York Times. May 12, 2013.
13 May 2013 Guatemalan government ordered to apologize to Indigenous people.

A Guatemalan court orders the government to apologize to indigenous people for atrocities committed during the country’s civil war, after the country’s former dictator is convicted of genocide.

McDonald, Mike. “Guatemala government must apologize after Rios Montt verdict: judge.” Reuters. May 13, 2013.
25 May 2013 Two former Korean sex salves demand justification- Japan’s wartime practice of forced Prostitution

 Two former Korean sex salves demand that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto resign for trying to justify Japan’s wartime practice of forcing thousands of Asian women into prostitution.

“Former Sex Slaves Demand Mayor Resign.” Montreal Gazette. May 25, 2013. pA18.
31 May 2013 Khmer Rouge officials apologize for crimes.

In Cambodia, while on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, former Khmer Rouge officials Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan acknowledge some responsibility for their actions and offer condolences. (Cf. their apology in 1998.)

Nueman, Scott. “Top Khmer Rouge Leaders Apologize For Regime’s Atrocities.” NPR. May 31, 2013.
4 June 2013 Turkey-crackdown on demonstrators/ raising down Gezi Park

 In Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc apologizes for a crackdown on demonstrators protesting plans to raze Gezi Park in Istanbul.  (Demonstrators had called for Prime Minister  Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for the police action that had left over 1,5000 hospitalized.)  Arinc’s statement said in part, “I apologize for the police aggression against our citizens.”

Johnson, Glen and Patrick J. Mcdonnell. “Turkish official offers apology.” Philadelphia Inquirer. June 5, 2013; Arsu, Sebnem. “Turkish Official Apologizes for Force Used at Start of Riots.” New York Times. June 4, 2013; Peker, Emre, et al. “Turkish
6 June 2013 Britain agrees to pay £19.9 million in compensation to 5,228 Kenyans

In order to settle a lawsuit, Great Britain agrees to pay £19.9 million in compensation to 5,228 Kenyans who were tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s.

Anderson, David M. “Atoning for the Sins of Empire.” New York Times. June 12, 2013.
18 June 2013 Christian ministry dealing with homosexuality,- apology to the gay community

Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with homosexuality, issues an apology to the gay community for years of undue judgment.  One day later, the organization’s board of directors unanimously votes to close its doors.

25 July 2013 Caricom-reparations and formal apologies for the Atlantic slave trade from Great Britain

 Caricom (an association of 15 Caribbean countries) launches an effort to obtain reparations and formal apologies for the Atlantic slave trade from Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands.

Fox, Ben. “Caribbean Nations Seeking Compensation for Slavery.” Associated Press. July 25, 2013.
August 2013 China-Zhang Hongbing expressed regrets for Cultural Revolution

 The Chinese government reports that Zhang Hongbing expressed regrets for politically criticizing his mother when he was a 16-year old boy in 1970 during the Cultural Revolution; his mother was then shot to death as a counter-revolutionary.

Hua, Yu. “China Waits for an Apology.” New York Times. April 9, 2014.
21 August 2013 Bulgaria apologizes for support of Soviet action.

In Bulgaria, a Soviet Army monument in Sofia is painted pink in an “artistic apology” for Bulgaria’s support of Soviet troops which crushed Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring uprising against its Communist rulers on its 45th anniversary. The phrase “Bulgaria apologizes” was written at the base of the monument.

“Bulgarian Red Army monument painted pink in Prague Spring apology.” Reuters. August 21, 2013.
21 August 2013 German chancellor to visits the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau

Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to visit the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, where she expresses “deep sorrow and shame” for the crimes of the Nazi regime.

Vasagar, Jeevan. “Merkel expresses sorrow, shame on first official visit to Dachau.” Montreal Gazette. August 21, 2013. pA20.
30 September 2013 Afghanistan reconciliation - 5,000 people killed between 1978 and 1979

Shortly after the release of the names of nearly 5,000 people who were killed by the Afghan Communist government between 1978 and 1979, Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that reconciliation is more important than prosecution.

Nordland, Rod. “Old Atrocities, Now Official, Galvanize Afghanistan.” New York Times. September 30, 2013.
30 September 2013 UN asks Spain to revoke amnesty law.

The United Nations calls on Spain to revoke a 1977 law that pardoned crimes committed during the rule of Francisco Franco.

Reuters. “U.N. tells Spain to revoke Franco-era amnesty law.” September 30, 2013.
23 October 2013 USA Pennsylvania law allowing doctors to apologize to patients

 Pennsylvania Governor Corbett says he will sign a law allowing doctors to apologize to patients when a procedure does not go as planned, without it being used against them in court.  36 other states have similar laws that prevent medical apologies from being invoked in malpractice litigation.

Worden, Amy. “Corbett to sign bill allowing doctors to apologize.” Philly.com. October 23, 2013.
20 November 2013 USA Alabama posthumously pardons three “Scottsboro boys”

 The State of Alabama posthumously pardons three African American men (the last of the nine “Scottsboro boys”) who were falsely convicted of raping two white women on a train in 1931.

Nov 21, 2013. Blinder, Alan. “With Last 3 Pardons, Alabama Hopes to Put Infamous ‘Scottsboro Boys’ Case to Rest.” New York Times. November 21, 2013.
28 November 2013 USA Afghanistan- apology to drone strike that killed a child

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologizes to President Hamid Karzai for a drone strike that killed a child.

Quinn, Patrick. “Karzai gets apology from U.S. for drone strike that killed child.” Montreal Gazette. November 30, 2013.
30 November 2013 USA Afghanistan apology for American military mistakes during the 12-year war

When the U.S. and Afghanistan finalize a bilateral security agreement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denies that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had sought an apology for American military mistakes during the 12-year war.

Shanker, Thom and Rod Nordland. “Afghan Pact Would Keep U.S. Troops Until 2004.” New York Times. November 30, 2013.
1 December 2013 North Korea -video of 85-year old captured American veteran Merrill Newman

North Korea releases a video of 85-year old captured American veteran Merrill Newman apologizing for hostile acts he committed during the Korean War.  He is released after the apology.

Perlez, Jane. “North Korea Releases a Video of U.S. Veteran Confessing to ‘Hostile Acts.’” New York Times. December 1, 2013.
9 December 2013 Canada Ontario-neglect and abuse of patients at a provincial facility

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne apologizes for the neglect and abuse of patients at a provincial facility for people with developmental disabilities decades ago.

Loriggio, Paola. “Ontario apologizes for abuse.” Montreal Gazette. December 10, 2013.
23 December 2013 USA. Germany Chancellor NSA bugging of cellphone

U.S. President Barack Obama apologizes to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the NSA bugging her cellphone.

Sappenfield, Mark. “German spy scandal: Should Obama have apologized?” Christian Science Monitor. October 27, 2013.
23 December 2013 Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-Yemen apologY for an unauthorized attack in Yemen

Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, apologizes for an unauthorized attack at a hospital in Yemen that killed 52 people.

Youssef, Maamoun. “Al-Qaeda unit apologizes.” Philadelphia Inquirer. December 23, 2013.
9 January 2014 USA New Jersey traffic jam orchestrated by his aides

  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apologizes for a traffic jam orchestrated by his aides to punish a mayor who did not endorse his candidacy.

Fleisher, Lisa, et al. “Chris Christie Moves to Contain Fallout From Bridge Scandal.” Wall Street Journal. Janueary 9, 2014.
12 January 2014 Chinese Red Guard Song Binbin killing of high school vice principal Bian Zhongyun in August 1966

Former Chinese Red Guard member Song Binbin apologizes for failing to stop the killing of high school vice principal Bian Zhongyun in August 1966 during the Cultural Revolution.

Han, Xiao. “Confessions of the Cultural Revolution.” New York Times. January 26, 2014.