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 401 - 425 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
7 May 2004 USA apology for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison

At a press conference with Jordanian King Abdullah, U.S. President George W. Bush apologizes for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

“Bush Apologizes for Iraqi Prisoner Abuse.” www.foxnews. May 7, 2004.
7 May 2004 USA. apology for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologizes for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners and takes responsibility for failing to notify Congress and the president of the abuse.

Shanker, Thom and Eric Schmitt. “The Struggle For Iraq.” New York Times. May 8, 2004.
23 June 2004 Saudi Arabia terrorists who surrender within a month will be safe

 Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah announces that terrorists who surrender within a month will be safe but will be dealt with according to Islamic law.

“Saudis offer terrorists month to surrender.” www.cnn.com 6/23/04.
22 September 2004 Former televangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologizes for threatening to kill any man who looked at him romantically

Former televangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologizes for threatening to kill any man who looked at him romantically.

“Swaggart apologizes after remark about ‘killing’ gay men.” USA Today. September 22, 2004.
5 November 2004 Chilean army- human rights abuses during the regime of General Pinochet

General Juan Espinosa announces that the Chilean army will assume responsibility and collective “institutional” blame for human rights abuses during the regime of General Pinochet.  Previously, the army had dismissed the abuses as the result of individual “excesses” rather than a deliberate policy.

“Chilean army admits abuses.” The Montreal Gazette. 11/6/04. See also Rother, Larry. “A Torture Report Compels Chile to Reassess Its Past.” New York Times. 11/28/04.
27 November 2004 Catholic Church -Orthodox church return of the bones of the most revered saints in the Orthodox church

 Pope John Paul II returns the bones of the most revered saints in the Orthodox church.  He called the return “a blessed occasion to purify our wounded memories, to cleanse our journey of reconciliation.”  However, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarr-Vallis denies that the Pope was “asking pardon” for the Church removing the relics from Constantinople to Rome.

Fisher, Ian. “In a Gesture of Conciliation, the Pope Returns Orthodox Relics.” New York Times. 11/28/04.
December 2004 Morocco truth commission- human rights abuses

Morocco initiates an official truth commission to investigate human rights abuses from 1956 to 1999.

“Morocco Confronts Rights Abuses in Its Past, but Not the Abusers.” New York Times. December 26, 2004. p19.
10 December 2004 Tacoma, a seven judge panel symbolically exonerates Nisqually Indian Chief Leschi

In Tacoma, a seven judge panel symbolically exonerates Nisqually Indian Chief Leschi, who was hanged during an Indian war in 1858.

“Indian Chief Hanged in 1858 Is Cleared.” New York Times. December 12, 2004.
January 2005 J.P. Morgan Chase -involvement in the slave trade two centuries ago

 J.P. Morgan Chase apologizes for involvement in the slave trade two centuries ago.

Nobles, Melissa. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge, 2008. p165-6.
22 January 2005 Newfoundland and Labrador- the relocation of Inuit communities in the 1950s

Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador apologizes for the relocation of Inuit communities in the 1950s.

http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2005/exec/0122n03.htm
9 February 2005 British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologizes for the wrongful imprisonment of 11 people in relation to IRA bombings

British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologizes for the wrongful imprisonment of 11 people in relation to IRA bombings in 1974.

http://news.bbc.co/uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/4249953.stm. February 9, 2005.
13 April 2005 USA award of $21.8 million to Jewish families

A U.S. federal judge approves an award of $21.8 million to surviving members of two Jewish families whose sugar company in Vienna was seized and “aryanized” shortly after Nazi Germany annexed Austria.

“For Betrayal by Swiss Bank and Nazis, $21 Million.” New York Times. April 14, 2005.
17 April 2005 Japan China apology for damage to Japanese diplomatic missions in anti-Japan protests

 Japan demands that China apologize for damage to Japanese diplomatic missions in violent anti-Japan protests.  China rejects Japan’s demand.

“Japan demands apology from China.” www.cnn.com. April 16, 2005; “Beijing rejects Tokyo demand for apology.” www.cnn.com. April 17, 2005.
23 April 2005 Leaders of Japan and China, both sides soften recent demands

At a meeting in Indonesia of the leaders of Japan and China, both sides softened recent demands, as Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi did not insist on a Chinese apology for anti-Japanese attacks in China, nor did Chinese leader Hu Jintao demand that Mr. Koizumi stop visiting the controversial Yasakuni shrine for World War II veterans.

Bonner, Raymond and Norimitsu Onishi. “China and Japan Leaders Pledge to Improve Relations.” New York Times. April 24, 2005.
30 April 2005 China - Taiwanese attempt to soften strained relations

 In an historic meeting in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Taiwanese Nationalist Party leader Lien Chan attempts to soften strained relations that date to China’s civil war, saying, “Our two parties were enemies in the past.  Everyone knows this history.  But history is in the past.  We can’t change it.  But the future is in our hands and offers many opportunities.”

“Foes put past behind them in China.” www.cnn.com. April 30, 2005.
7 May 2005 Germany- “cult of guilt” imposed after the Nazi defeat.

Near the site of official commemorations of the end of World War II, German police break up a demonstration by hundreds of members of a far-right party protesting what they see as a “cult of guilt” imposed after the Nazi defeat.

“German far-right protests against “cult of Guilt” on anniversary of war’s end.” www.940news.com. May 8, 2005.
8 May 2005 Setif massacre of 1945

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and Ambassador to Algeria Hubert Colin de Verdiere express regret for the “inexcusable tragedy” of the Sétif massacres of 1945, in which colonial forces killed thousands of people after anti-French riots.

Daase, Christopher, et al, eds. Apology and Reconciliation in International Relations. Routledge, 2016.
June 2005 USA-refusal to pass anti-lynching legislation

The U.S. Senate apologizes for its historic refusal to pass anti-lynching legislation.

Stolberg, Sheryl. “The Senate Apologizes, Mostly.” New York Times. 6/19/05.
1 June 2005 The Wachovia Corporation apologizes for its historical ties to slavery in the U.S

The Wachovia Corporation apologizes for its historical ties to slavery in the U.S.

“Wachovia apologizes for slavery ties.” www.cnn.com. June 2, 2005.
23 June 2005 Alberta Canada- inaction during the era of forced residential schools for First Nations children

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley apologizes for the province’s inaction during the era of forced residential schools for First Nations children. 

12 July 2005 European-American Leaders execution of 7,000 people in Srebrenica,

 At a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the execution of 7,000 people in Srebrenica, American and European leaders apologize for failing to protect the “safe area” and vow that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Rohde, David. “In Bosnia, World Leaders Apologize for Massacre.” New York Times. July 12, 2005.
22 July 2005 France for repressing rebellion in Madagascar

During a visit to Madagascar, French President Jacques Chirac expresses regret for the excesses of the repression of a nationalist rebellion in 1947

“Pour Chirac, la répression de 1947 était ‘inacceptable.’” RFI Savoirs. July 22, 2005.
31 July 2005 Virginia offers $5,500 a year to residents denied education in 1959

Virginia offers $5,500 a year to any state resident who was denied education in 1959 when the state shut its public schools rather than desegregate them.  

14 August 2005 Japan apologizes for Japan’s wartime invasions

On the 60th anniversary of the country’s surrender, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologizes for Japan’s wartime invasions.

“Japanese leader apologizes for wartime colonization, invasions of Asia.” www940news.com. August 14, 2005; “Japan’s Apologies for World War II.” New York Times. August 14, 2015.
23 August 2005 Pat Robertson apologizes for suggesting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez be assassinated

 Pat Robertson apologizes for suggesting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez be assassinated.

“Robertson apologizes.” www.cnn.com. August 24, 2005.