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
24 August 2000 2000: Russia-Kursk submarine accident

Russian President Vladimir Putin expresses a "great feeling of guilt and responsibility" for the Kursk submarine accident, in which all 118 sailors aboard died, essentially apologizing for the way the tragedy was handled.

Fennell, Tom. “Tragedy and Anger.” Maclean’s. September 4, 2000.
25 August 2000 2000: Zimbabwe war veterans accept a government apology

Zimbabwe war veterans accept a government apology for the destruction of their homes in the course of police raids on illegally occupied property.

 

“Zimbabwe War Veterans Accept Government Apology.” Xinhua News Agency. August 25, 2000.
August 2000 2000: Australia-Aboriginal children who were removed from their families

 Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser calls for a national apology for the "stolen generations,” the one in ten Aboriginal children who were removed from their families between 1920 and 1971 in a government effort to "civilize" them by assimilation into white society.

“The Stolen Generation.” Time. October 2, 2000.
8 September 2000 2000:USA- forced relocation of Indians and broken treaties and promises

During a celebration of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 175th year anniversary, Interior Department assistant secretary Kevin Gover apologizes on behalf of the bureau to American Indians for its past actions, including the forced relocation of Indians and broken treaties and promises.

Stout, David. “No Place for John Wayne at Indian Bureau.” New York Times. September 22, 2000. See also Stout, David. “An Apology and a Milestone at Indian Bureau.” New York Times. September 9, 2000.
8 September 2000 2000: USA apology to North Korea on search in the Frankfurt airport.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sends a letter of apology to North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, expressing America's regret that North Korea's second in command, Kim Yong Nam, canceled plans of the 15 member North Korean delegation to attend a summit of 160 world leaders in New York after being asked to be searched in the Frankfurt airport.

“U.S. apology mends N. Korea relations.” United Press International. September 11, 2000.
14 September 2000 2000: USA apologizes to Wen Ho Lee, an Chinese-American nuclear scientist

U.S. district Judge James A. Parker apologizes to Wen Ho Lee, an Chinese-American nuclear scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who was held for nine months on suspicion of giving secrets to China before the government’s controversial case against him unraveled.

Sterngold, James. “Nuclear scientist set free after plea in secrets case.” New York Times. September 14, 2000.
16 September 2000 2000: Japan-women forced into brothels in World War II.

Fifteen women announce plans for a class-action lawsuit against Japan for being forced into brothels in World War II.

“15 to Sue Japan in U.S. Over Sex Slavery.” New York Times. September 16, 2000.
10 November 2000 2000: President Mugabe-people of Matabeleland 20,000 civilians were killed in the course of an army crackdown

The Movement for Democratic Change, a group opposed to Zimbabwe President Mugabe, asks him to publicly apologize to the people of Matabeleland and the Midlands (and to initiate an affirmative action program to benefit the two regions) for atrocities committed by state agents in the 1980s, when 20,000 civilians were killed in the course of an army crackdown on armed rebels.

“MDC Demands Official Apology For Mat, Midlands Atrocities.” Africa News Service. November 10, 2000.
9 December 2000 2000: The Israeli Army apologizes to American freelance photographer Yola Monakhov

The Israeli Army apologizes to American freelance photographer Yola Monakhov, who was shot by an Israeli soldier in Bethlehem in November.  The army says the shooter and his commanders will be punished for violating the army's standing prohibition against using live ammunition except when facing immediate mortal danger.

Sontag, Deborah. “Israel: army apology.” New York Times. December 9, 2000.
14 December 2000 2000: Afrikaner academics- call for South Africa whites to apologize for apartheid

Afrikaner academics and professionals, calling themselves the Group of 63, distance themselves from the call for South Africa whites to apologize for apartheid.  The group says that while South Africa needs a political solution to its racial problems, personalizing the problem by seeking an apology is not appropriate.

“Elite Afrikaner Group Distances Itself From Apartheid Apology.” Africa News Service. December 15, 2001.
16 December 2000 2000: White South Africans- Present a declaration indicating that they benefitted under apartheid

On Reconciliation Day, white South Africans present a declaration indicating that they benefitted under apartheid.

Nobles, Melissa. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge, 2008. p165.
22 December 2000 2000: USA- South Korea shooting of civilians at No Gun Ri in the Korean War

The Clinton administration decides not to issue a formal apology to South Korea regarding the shooting of civilians at No Gun Ri in the Korean War. (Korean demonstrators demanded an apology in October, 1999.) 

 
“No Formal Apology by the U.S. For Korean War Civilian Deaths.” New York Times. December 22, 2000.
December 2000 2000: Harvard University -Dismissing Professor Raymond Ginger

Harvard University apologizes for dismissing Professor Raymond Ginger in 1954, when he would not say whether he was a member of the Communist Party.

 

Cox, Ana Marie. “Harvard acknowledges ‘regret’ for dismissal of professor in 1954.” Chronicle of Higher Education. April 13, 2001.
3 February 2001 2001: Armenia wants only an apology from Turkey

 Armenian President Robert Kocharyan says he wants only an apology and not necessarily compensation from Turkey for the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

“Armenia Seeks Simple Apology.” APS Diplomat Recorder. February 3, 2001.
10 February 2001 2001: USA- Japan U.S. submarine Greenville’s collision

Secretary of State Colin Powell apologizes by telephone to Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono after the U.S. submarine Greenville’s collision with a Japanese fishing boat off Hawaii.

“U.S. apology swift after sub hits boat.” cnn.com. February 10, 2001.
19 February 2001 2001: Zimbabwe-Two foreign journalists Deported

 President Robert Mugabe's information and publicity minister says Zimbabwe owes no one an apology for deporting two foreign journalists.

“Harare Says It ‘Owes No One An Apology.’” Africa News Service. February 22, 2001.
22 February 2001 2001: USA- Japan-submarine Greenville’s collision

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley apologizes to the Emperor and Empress of Japan for the submarine Greenville’s collision with a Japanese fishing boat.

“U.S. offers Japan a new apology.” NY Times. February 22, 2001. pA22.
28 February 2001 2001: USA-submarine Greenville

  Admiral William Fallon apologizes for the collision of the submarine Greenville with a Japanese fishing boat.

French, Howard. “U.S. admiral delivers apology to the Japanese in sub sinking.” New York Times. February 28, 2002.
1 March 2001 2001: USA-Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 reparations

The Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 recommends that reparations be paid to survivors.

Milloy, Ross E. “Panel Calls for Reparations in Tulsa Race Riot.” New York Times. March 1, 2001. pA12.
19 March 2001 2001: Kuwait- Iraq apology

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait's first deputy prime minister and foreign minister, asks Iraq to apologize to Kuwait before the two countries talk about reconciliation.

“Kuwaiti FM Asks for Iraq’s Apology before talking about Reconciliation.” Xinhua News Agency. March 19, 2001.