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
4 December 2011 2011: USA deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers killed in NATO airstrikes

 U.S. President Barack Obama expresses condolences, but not a formal apology, for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers killed in NATO airstrikes along the Afghan border.

Cushman, John H., Jr. “Obama Offers ‘Condolences’ in Deaths of Pakistani Troops. New York Times. December 4, 2011.
9 December 2011 2011: Netherlands Indonesia apologizes for the 1947 Rawagede massacre

 The Dutch ambassador to Indonesia apologizes for the 1947 Rawagede massacre, building upon the expression of regret three years earlier.

“Dutch apology for 1947 Indonesia massacre at Rawagede.” www.bbc.com. December 9, 2011.
26 April 2011 Italian Military Convicts Former Nazi Soldiers

When an Italian military court convicts three former Nazi soldiers for the massacre of 184 civilians in a Tuscan village in 1944, prosecutor Marco De Paolis asks Germany to pay 14 million euros to the 32 surviving relatives of the victims.  Germany claims it is not liable because of immunity agreements made with Italy in 1947 and 1961.

21 March 2011 Alabama mayor apologizes to rape victim.

The mayor of Abbeville, Alabama apologizes to Recy Taylor, who was raped by a gang of white men in 1944, for the racism that let her attackers escape prosecution.

“Abbeville mayor apologizes for 1944 rape of black woman by white men.” Associated Press. March 21, 2011.
21 April 2011 Alabama apologizes to rape victim

The Alabama legislature apologizes to Recy Taylor for failing to prosecute six white men who raped the African American woman in 1944.

 

http://nuweb9.neu.edu/civilrights/apologies/acknowledging-its-complicity-in-denying-justice-to-recy-taylor-the-state-of-alabama-issues-an-official-apology/
12 July 2012 2001: The Palestinian Authority-Israel demolished houses in the southern Gaza Strip

The Palestinian Authority asks Israel for an apology and compensation for houses in the southern Gaza Strip and near Jerusalem that were demolished by Israeli troops.

“PA demands Israel apologize for demolitions.” United Press International. July 12, 2001.
18 January 2012 2012: Bulgaria condemns the country’s policy of assimilating ethnic Turks

 The Bulgarian parliament adopts a resolution condemning the country’s policy of attempting to assimilate ethnic Turks in the 1980s.

Dimitrova, Svetla. “Bulgaria apologizes to its Turks for ‘Revival Process.” Southeast European Times. January 18, 2012.
3 July 2012 2012: USA apologizes for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers in American airstrikes eight months ago

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologizes for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers in American airstrikes eight months ago.  The apology leads to reopening of NATO supply routes into Afghanistan.

Schmitt, Eric. “Pakistan Opens NATO Supply Line as Clinton Says ‘Sorry.’” New York Times. July 3, 2012.
July 2012 2012: Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights- killings of communists in the 1960s a gross violation of human rights

 Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights declares the mass killings of communists in the 1960s a gross violation of human rights.

Cochrane, Joe. “’Act of Killing’ Film Fails to Stir Indonesia.” New York Times. March 2, 2014.
4 September 2012 2012: Britain-Murder of 24 unarmed Malayan civilians in 1948

In London, a court rules that Britain was responsible for the murder of 24 unarmed Malayan civilians in 1948 Batang Kali massacre.  The lawyer for the claimants says Britain should apologize.

2012: In London, a court rules that Britain was responsible for the murder of 24 unarmed Malayan civilians in 1948
19 November 2012 2012: Canada British Columbia-regret the hanging of two First Nations men in 1869

In Canada, the British Columbia government expresses regret for the hanging of two First Nations men in 1869, two years before BC became a province.  Members of the Hesquiaht First Nation responded by forgiving the actions of the colonial government.

“B.C. regrets 1869 hanging of First Nations men.” Montreal Gazette. November 19, 2012.
20 December 2012 2012: Algeria’ France-France’s colonial rule in Algeria

During a speech at Algeria’s parliament, French President Francois Hollande acknowledges the “profoundly unjust and brutal” nature of France’s colonial rule in Algeria, but he does not offer an apology.

 

de la Baume, Maia. “Hollande Uses Softer Tone on Delicate Visit to Algeria.” New York Times. December 20, 2012
23 December 2012 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.
12 September 2012 U.K. apology for sports stadium disaster.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron says he is “profoundly sorry” for the failures that led to the deaths of 96 people who were killed in a crush of spectators at the Hillsborough football stadium in April 1989 and also for attempts to blame fans instead of authorities for the disaster.

“Hillsborough disaster : David Cameron apologises for ‘double injustice.’” The Guardian. September 12, 2012.
19 February 2013 2013. Ireland apology -women who worked without pay in the Magdalene Laundries

Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny apologizes to the thousands of women who worked without pay in the Magdalene Laundries, two weeks after refusing to do so.

Waterfield, Bruno. “Magdelene survivors receive apology.” Montreal Gazette. February 6, 2013; Associated Press. “Ireland apologizes to women of nun-run laundries.” www.philly.com. February 19, 2013. http://www.rte.ie/news/2013/0219/368465-maglalen
20 February 2013 2013: Britain India, -Amritsar

 At the sight of a massacre of hundreds of Sikh civilians by British soldiers in 1919 in Amritsar, India, British Prime Minister David Cameron calls the massacre “a deeply shameful event in British history” but does not offer a formal apology.

“David Cameron marks British 1919 Amritsar massacre.” www.bbc.com. February 20, 2013.
21 March 2013 2013: Australia- babies for adoption by married couples

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard apologizes for the government’s policy of forcing unwed mothers to give up their babies for adoption by married couples from the 1950s to the 1970s

Fox, Andie. “Julia Gillard’s adoption apology comes after an abyss of trauma.” The Guardian. March 22, 2013.
22 March 2013 2013: Israel Turkey apology-deadly 2010 raid on a Turkish ship

 After prodding by U.S. President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyio Erdogan to apologize for the deadly 2010 raid on a Turkish ship seeking to bring aide to Palestinians in Gaza.

Rudoren, Jodi and Mark Landler. “With Obama as Broker, Israelis and Turkey End Dispute.” New York Times. March 22, 2013.
21 April 2013 2013: Turkey Israel- raid on a Turkish flotilla in 2010

 Relatives of nine people killed during an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla in 2010 indicated that they would reject compensation until Israel removes restrictions on Gaza.

Arsu, Sebnem and Jodi Rudoren. “Relatives of Flotilla Raid Victims Reject Israeli Compensation.” New York Times. April 21, 2013.
25 April 2013 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.