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
16 July 1999 1999: Christians-Jews The crusades

 After a “Reconciliation Walk” across Europe, several hundred members of a Christian group apologize to religious leaders in Jerusalem for the mass killings of Muslims, Jews, and Byzantine Christians 900 years ago during the Crusades.

Sontag, Deborah. “Israel: Apology for Crusades.” New York Times. July 16, 1999; Dixon, Thomas. “Crusaders to Enter Israel.” Christianity Today. April 5, 1999.
28 July 1999 1999: South Africa’s Natal Law Society,-barring Gandhi from practicing law

South Africa’s Natal Law Society, the equivalent of the bar association, apologizes “unconditionally” for barring Mohandas Gandhi from practicing law in 1894 because of his race.  David Randles, president of the Natal Law Society, made the apology to “all other aspirant lawyers whose access to the profession was restricted in any way on the basis of racial grounds.”

Daley, Suzanne. “For Gandhi (d. 1948), a Long Due Apology.” New York Times. July 29, 1999.
27 August 1999 1999: Australia apologizes for past mistreatment of Aborigines

 Australian Prime Minister John Howard apologizes for past mistreatment of Aborigines.

“Australia Apologizes for Treatment of Aborigines.” New York Times. August 27, 1999.
31 August 1999 1999: Japan upholds ruling rejecting demands from 369 South Koreans

The Tokyo High Court upholds a lower court’s ruling rejecting demands from 369 South Koreans for an official government apology and compensation.

 

“Japan: Koreans’ Plea Rejected.” New York Times. August 31, 1999.
3 September 1999 1999: Denmark Forced displacement of Greenland Inuits from their home

Denmark Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen apologizes for the way his country forced Greenland Inuits from their homes in 1953 to make room for an expansion of a U.S. airbase.



 

 

Denmark: Apology to Inuits.” New York Times. September 3, 1999.
8 September 1999 1999: New York Archbishop - Jewish friends

New York Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor writes to his Jewish friends: “I ask this Yom Kippur that you understand my own abject sorrow for any member of the Catholic Church, high or low, including myself, who may have harmed you or your forbears in any way.”

NY Times. September 19, 1995. (Letter published by Victor Barnett, Elie Wiesel, and James Wolfensohn.)
13 September 1999 1999: Libya American and European reparations to Africans for slavery

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Kadhafi says Americans and European powers should apologize and pay reparations to Africans for slavery.

“Kadhafi Calls for Reparations.” Africa News Service. September 13, 1999.
15 September 1999 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
12 March 2000 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.
26 January 2000 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 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.