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
26 May 1998 1998: Australia inaugural national Sorry Day, Aboriginal Australians

Australia holds its inaugural national Sorry Day, on the one-year anniversary of parliament tabling the “Bringing Them Home” report on the forcible removal of Aboriginal Australians.

http://www.nsdc.org.au/about-us/the-history-of-nsdc
May 1998 1998: Japan apologizes to Britain for World War II

 Japanese Emperor Akihito apologizes to Britain for World War II.

Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
May 1998 1998: Australian “sorry books” for wrongs done to Aboriginal Australians

 Australian citizens sign “sorry books” for past wrongs done to Aboriginal Australians.

Nobles, Melissa. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge, 2008. p165.
July 1998 1998: Britain Soldiers executed for cowardice in World War I

 British Armed Forces Minister John Reid apologizes in the House of Commons for the deaths of 306 soldiers executed for cowardice in World War I.

Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
July 1998 1998: Russia reburies the remains of the Romanov family

In what Russian President Boris Yeltsin regards as a humane act of repentance, Russia reburies the remains of the Romanov family at a ceremony in the Petropavlovsky Cathedral in St. Petersburg, on the 80th anniversary of their execution by Bolshevik forces

Zarakhovich, Yuri. “Playing Politics with the Romanovs.” Time. August 26, 2007.
August 1998 1998: Ireland IRA blast in Omagh that killed 28 people

The “Real IRA,” a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army opposed to Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement, admits responsibility for a blast in Omagh that killed 28 people and injured 220 others but not for the casualties, which it blames on authorities that supposedly did not heed the group’s warnings.

 

Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
November 1998 1998: Catholic Church- India Colonial Association

The Catholic Priests’ Conference of India demands an apology from the Catholic Church for its association with colonial forces in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

Malcolm, Teresa. “Priests Demand Apology for Aiding of Colonialism.” National Catholic Reporter. November 20, 1998.
November 1998 1998: Indonesian armed forces death of a dozen demonstrators

Indonesian armed forces apologize in ads in local newspapers for killing a dozen demonstrators earlier in the month.

Whitaker, Raymond. “Flat Earth.” The Independent. November 22, 1998.
August 1998 1998: Northern Ireland IRA apologizes for violence and killings

August, 1998:  The Irish Republican Army apologizes for violence and killings in the course of its struggle for liberty and pledges to end its 23-year terror campaign.

 

 

Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
August 1998 1998: Northern Ireland IRA apologizes for violence and killings

August, 1998:  The Irish Republican Army apologizes for violence and killings in the course of its struggle for liberty and pledges to end its 23-year terror campaign.

 

 

Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
14 March 1999 1999: Guatemala atrocities committed during their 36-year civil war

Former Guatemala rebels apologize for atrocities committed during their 36-year civil war.

“Former Rebels Issue Apology in Guatemala.” New York Times. March 14, 1999.
12 April 1999 1999: Germany-China NATO’s bombing of China’s Belgrade Embassy

 German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and expresses an unconditional apology for NATO’s bombing of China’s Belgrade Embassy

“Schroder Expresses Unconditional Apology for Attack on Chinese Embassy.” Xinhua News Agency. May 12, 1999.
11 May 1999 1999: Ireland apologizes to survivors of child abuse in industrial and reform schools

The Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland apologizes to survivors of child abuse in industrial and reform schools.

http://www.rte.ie/news/1999/0511/1662-abuse/
10 May 1999 1999: U.S.-China NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade

U.S. President Bill Clinton apologizes for NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which killed three Chinese and journalists and injured 20 others.

Perlez, Jane. “Crisis in the Balkans.” New York Times. May 11, 1999.
1999 1999: U.S.expresses remorse for support of right-wing governments in Guatemala

U.S. President Bill Clinton expresses remorse for U.S. support of right-wing governments in Guatemala that killed at least tens of thousands of rebels and Mayan Indians.

Broder, John M. “Clinton Offers His Apologies to Guatemala.” New York Times. March 11, 1999.
5 March 1999 1999: USA apologizes for deaths at Italian ski resort

 U.S. President Clinton apologizes for deaths at Italian ski resort caused by a U.S. jet striking a gondola cable. 

“The President’s news conference with Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema of Italy.” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documentaries. March 8, 1999.
3 February 1999 1999: USA Televangelist Antichrist is (or will be) Jewish

In the U.S., Rev. Jerry Falwell apologizes for having said that the Antichrist is (or will be) Jewish.

“Falwell Apologizes After Angering Jews.” Los Angeles Times. February 3, 1999.
11 January 1999 1999: Rouge leaders, apologize to the Cambodian people

Two former Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, apologize to the Cambodian people for the nearly two million people killed from 1975 to 1979.

Spaeth, Anthony. “Apologies and Outrage.” Time International. January 11, 1999; Mydans, Seth. “Word to the Dead: We’ve Put the Past to Rest.” New York Times. May 21, 1999.
7 January 1999 1999: U.S. Latin American Japanese World War II internees

 A U.S. federal judge approves a June, 1998 settlement between the U.S. government and Latin American Japanese World War II internees which will give then an official apology from President Clinton and reparations of $5,000 each.

WWII internees get 5,000 dollars, official apology.” Daily Yomiuri. January 9, 1999.
5 January 1999 1999: The U.S. Department of Agriculture -African American farmers lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Agriculture settles a 1996 class action lawsuit by agreeing to pay African American farmers $50,000 each, to compensate for a history of biased federal loan practices.

http://www.pbs.org/itvs/homecoming/history7.html