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
7 February 2014 2014: Spain-descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled in 1492

The Spanish government provisionally approves legislation to offer citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled in 1492, as a measure of conciliation.

Kershner, Isabel and Raphael Minder. “Prospect of Spanish Citizenship Appeals To Descendants of Jews Expelled in 1492.” New York Times. February 16, 2014. p12.
15 February 2014 2014: United Nations mediator Syrian lack of progress in peace talks

 United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi apologizes to the Syrian people for the lack of progress in peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition.

“Syria talks: Mediator apologises for lack of progress.” BBC News. February 15, 2014.
22 February 2014 2014: Spain, Alba Gonzales Camacho, Grapo leftist terrorist group- glorification of terrorism

 In Spain, Alba Gonzales Camacho, who had supported Grapo leftist terrorist group, becomes the first person convicted under a law that prohibits any apology for or glorification of terrorism.

Minder, Raphael. “In a First for Spain, a Woman Is Convicted of Inciting Terror Over Twitter.” New York Times. February 22, 2014.
25 February 2014 2014: Canada Clergy- survivors of residential schools

 Edmonton Archbishop Jerry Wood apologizes to survivors of residential schools on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.  (From the 1870s to 1996, some 150,000 aboriginal children in Canada were taken from their families and sent to residential schools, where many of them were abused.)

Ellwand, Otiena. “Bishops issue apology for residential schools.” Montreal Gazette. February 25, 2014. pA11.
March 2014 2014: Canada -Truth and Reconciliation Commission church-run schools between the 1870s and 1990s

 Canada holds a Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding the placement of aboriginal children into federally-funded, church-run schools between the 1870s and 1990s.

Magder, Jason. “Truth of residential school system shocking.” Montreal Gazette. March 28, 2014.
8 March 2014 2014: Germany apologizes to Greece over a 1943 massacre of civilians.

 Germany apologizes to Greece over a 1943 massacre of civilians.  (Many in Greece call for reparations for its occupation by Germany in 1941-4.)

Stavrakis, Thanassis. “Germany apologizes to Greece.” Montreal Gazette. March 8, 2014.
15 March 2014 2014: Canada Quebec Jewish group Jewish practice of circumcision

 A Quebec Jewish group rejects as inadequate an apology by a Parti Quebecois candidate for equating the Jewish practice of circumcision with rape.

“Jewish group says PQ candidate’s apology not good enough.” www.cjad.com. March 16, 2014.
9 April 2014 2014: Ireland- Britain signal friendship

 Irish President Higgins makes a state visit to Britain, to signal friendship and celebrate peace between the two countries after the deaths of some 3,600 people over several decades.

Lawless, Jill and Shawn Pogatchnik. “Irish president makes historic visit to England.” Montreal Gazette. April 9, 2014.
24 April 2014 2014: Iran-USA group that stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979

 In Iran, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, who led a group that stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, apologizes to the families of the hostages.

Karami, Arash. “In Iran, former hostage taker criticized over apology.” www.al-monitor.com. April 25, 2014.
30 May 2014 2014: USA-veterans’ hospitals

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki apologizes for the agency’s mismanagement of veterans’ hospitals.

Shear, Michael and David Joachim. “V.A. Chief Eric Shinseki, Set to Meet Obama, Apologizes for ‘Systemic’ Crisis.” New York Times. May 30, 2014.
18 May 2014 2014: North Korea apologizes over a fatal building collapse

 North Korea apologizes over a fatal building collapse.

Reuters. “North Korea offers rare apology over fatal apartment building collapse.” The Guardian. May 18, 2014.
16 May 2014 2014: Canada British Columbia discrimination against Chinese Canadians

The province of British Columbia apologizes over past discrimination against Chinese Canadians.

Meissner, Dirk. “B.C. apologizes for past discriminatory policies towards Chinese Canadians.” The Canadian Press. May 16, 2014.
16 July 2014 2014: A Dutch court holds the Netherlands liable for the deaths of 300 of the 8,000 people killed in Srebrenica

 A Dutch court holds the Netherlands liable for the deaths of 300 of the 8,000 people killed in Srebrenica in 1995.

Corder, Mike. “Court: Dutch liable for only about 300 of the 8,000 Srebrenica massacre deaths in 1995.” Montreal Gazette. July 16, 2014.
7 July 2014 2014: Catholic Church forgiveness from victims of sex abuse.

 The Pope asks forgiveness from victims of sex abuse.

Yardley, Jim. “Pope Asks Forgiveness From Victims of Sex-Abuse.” New York Times. July 7, 2014.
3 July 2014 2014: Iraq-amnesty to tribes that fought government

 Iraqi PM Maliki offers to give an amnesty to tribes that fought his government.

Bengali, Shashank. “Maliki offers rivals pardon.” Philadelphia Inquirer. July 3, 2014.
September 2014 2014: USA apology to the family of Michael Brown, who was shot dead

The police chief of Ferguson, MO apologizes to the family of Michael Brown, who was shot dead in an incident that inflamed racial tensions.

Rosenthal, Andrew. “Ferguson Police Chief’s Sad Excuse for an Apology.” New York Times. Sept 25, 2014.
1 October 2014 2014: Bosnian Serbs-crimes

 Radovan Karadzic takes moral responsibility for crimes committed by Bosnian Serbs in the 1990s.

“Karadzic takes ‘moral responsibility’ for Bosnia crimes.” BBC News. Oct 1, 2014.
5 October 2014 2014: USA apologizes to Turkey for remarks about ISIS/L

U.S. VP Joe Biden apologizes to Turkey for remarks about ISIS/L.

Arsu, Sebnem. “Biden Apologizes to Turkish President.” New York Times. Oct 5, 2014.
October 2014 2014: Japan-“comfort women” issue

Former Japanese PM Nakasone is appointed to a commission to consider measures to restore the country’s honor vis-a-vis the “comfort women” issue.

Kotler, Mindy. “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth.” New York Times. Nov 16, 2014.
8 November 2014 2014: Indian Death of two teenagers in Kashmir

The Indian military apologizes for shooting dead two teenagers in Kashmir.

“Kashmir: India army says sorry over teenager deaths.” BBC News. Nov 8, 2014.