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 126 - 150 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
9 June 1994 The Presbyterian Church of Canada apologizes for helping the government of Canada try to assimilate native peoples

The Presbyterian Church of Canada apologizes for helping the government of Canada try to assimilate native peoples.

http://presbyterian.ca/healing/
14 June 1994 U.S. Republican political strategist apologizes to African-American ministers

U.S. Republican political strategist Ed Rollins apologizes to African-American ministers for the use of a controversial political strategy.

McLarin, Kimberley. “Ed Rollins Offers Apology to Black Ministers in Person.” New York Times. 6/15/94.
August 1994 Germany -Poland World War II

German President Roman Herzog asks the Polish people for forgiveness for the “inordinate suffering” inflicted on their country during World War II.

Malcolm-Smith, Sally. “Germany Apologizes for Polish Suffering.” Daily Telegraph. August 2, 1994.
15 August 1994 Japan apologizes for the suffering caused by Imperial Japan

 Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizes for the suffering caused by Imperial Japan and concedes that other Asians suffered “tragic sacrifices beyond description.”
 

Dower, John W. “Triumphal and Tragic Narratives of the War in Asia.” [In Hein, Laura and Mark Selden, eds. Living With The Bomb. M.E. Scharpe, 1997.] p49; “War Shadows: Japan.” The Economist. August 20, 1994.
March 1995 The Jesuits’ general congregation apologizes for abetting “male domination” and pledged “solidarity with women

The Jesuits’ general congregation apologizes for abetting “male domination” and pledged “solidarity with women.”

Woodward, Kenneth L. “Who’s Sorry Now?” Newsweek. July 17, 1995.
March 1995 Lithuanian - Israeli the Holocaust

Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas asks the Israeli Knesset for forgiveness for Lithuania’s deeds in the Holocaust.

Bushinsky, Jay. “Asking Forgiveness is Just First Step.” Chicago Sun-Times. March 6, 1995.
11 March 1995 Alabama Governor George Wallace apologizes to civil rights advocates for resisting desegregation

On the thirtieth anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march, former Alabama Governor George Wallace apologizes to civil rights advocates for resisting desegregation.

Bragg, Rick. “Repentant George Wallace Meets Civil-Rights Marchers.” New York Times. March 11, 1995.
April 1995 USA-Japan, the atomic bombs

 U.S. President Bill Clinton says, “the United States owes no apology to Japan for having dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Woodward, Kenneth L. “Who’s Sorry Now?” Newsweek. July 17, 1995; “Um, Sorry About That.” Time. October 13, 1997.
9 April 1995 Vietnam Error

Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara regrets that the U.S. did not withdraw from Vietnam in 1964. He says, “We were wrong, terribly wrong.”

Apple, R. W., Jr. “McNamara Recalls, and Regrets, Vietnam.” New York Times. April 9, 1995.
May 1995 Russia unveils a monument to the millions of victims of Stalin

Petersburg, Russia unveils a monument to the millions of victims of Stalin and others during the Soviet regime.  The monument consists of two sphinxes, situated across from the former KGB building where many political prisoners were taken for interrogation.

Graeme, Chris and Alice Jondorf. “Riddle of the sphinx is broken.” Prospects. (The English-language newspaper of St. Petersburg, Russia.) No. 107. May 23-29, 1995.
May 1995 Catholic Church-Czech Republic stake burnings

Pope John Paul II begs forgiveness in the Czech Republic for the Church’s role in stake burnings and the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation.

Woodward, Kenneth L. “Who’s Sorry Now?” Newsweek. July 17, 1995; “Um, Sorry About That.” Time. October 13, 1997.
June 1995 Japan strives for world peace

 Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama says, “I would like to say that Japan is deeply remorseful for its past and strives for world peace.”

Mitchell, Emily. “Apologies: who’s sorry now?” Index of Censorship. May-June, 1998.
June 1995 The International Red Cross Nazi atrocities during World War II

The International Red Cross apologizes for its failure in not denouncing Nazi atrocities during World War II, saying “Our failure to speak out at that time was a moral defeat.”
 

Mitchell, Emily. “Apologies: who’s sorry now?” Index of Censorship. May-June, 1998.
1 June 1995 The Southern Baptist convention - African-Americans Slavery

The Southern Baptist convention apologizes to African-Americans and asks for forgiveness “for defending slavery in the antebellum South and for condoning ‘racism in our lifetime.’”

Woodward, Kenneth L. “Who’s Sorry Now?” Newsweek. July 17, 1995.
9 June 1995 Japan - Asians and others World War II

he lower house of the Japanese Diet expresses “deep remorse” for the suffering inflicted on Asians and others in World War II.

Dower, John W. “Triumphal and Tragic Narratives of the War in Asia.” [In Hein, Laura and Mark Selden, eds. Living With The Bomb. M.E. Scharpe, 1997.] p49.
14 June 1995 Peru amnesty for people charged with human rights abuses

Peruvian President Fujimori signs into law an amnesty for people charged with human rights abuses between 1982 and 1995.

“Fujimori Denies Rights Abuses.” New York Times. December 27, 2007.
July 1995 France apologizes for helping the Nazis in deporting French Jews to death camps

On the 53rd anniversary of the roundup of 13,000 Parisian Jews, French President Jacques Chirac apologizes for the help the Vichy government gave the Nazis in deporting 320,000 French Jews to death camps.
 

Wickham, DeWayne. “Why Clinton Must Stop Dodging Slavery Apology.” USA Today. Dec 16, 1997.
July 1995 Japan- women who were put into brothels by Japanese forces

 Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizes to the roughly 200,000 women who were put into brothels by Japanese forces to serve as sex slaves or “comfort women” and sets up a private “Asian Women’s Fund” to deal with reparations.  The fund is “an expression on the part of the people of Japan to these women.” 

“Cold Comfort: Japan.” The Economist. May 18, 1996; Mitchell, Emily. “Apologies: who’s sorry now?” Index of Censorship. May-June, 1998.
10 July 1995 Catholic Church-Women’s rights

In an open letter addressed to “every woman,” Pope John Paul II apologizes for the Church’s stance against women’s rights and for the historical denigration of women.

“Um, Sorry About That.” Time. October 13, 1997.
August 1995 Call for Australian apology.

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission issues a report recommending an apology and reparations for the Australian government’s policy of forcibly removing mixed-blood children from aboriginal families between 1910 and 1970

15 August 1995 Japan-Resolution to Renew the Determination for Peace

On the 50th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issues a statement of “heartfelt apologies” for Japan’s aggression.  On the same date as Murayama’s statement, the National Diet adopts a “Resolution to Renew the Determination for Peace on the Basis of Lessons Learned from History.”

hornton, Emily. “Final Mea Culpa?” Far Eastern Economic Review. August 24, 1995; Desmond, Edward W. “Finally, a Real Apology.” Time. August 28, 1995; Mukae, Ryuji. “Japan’s Diet Resolution on World War II: Keeping History at Bay.” Asian Survey.
October 1995 Switzerland’s refusal to accept refugees during the war

Swiss president Kaspar Villiger apologizes for Switzerland’s refusal to accept refugees during the war.

“Switzerland Repeats 1995 Apology Over Deeds During World War Two.” Xinhua News Agency. December 10, 1999.
November 1995 Britain Occupying New Zealand Maori land in 1863

Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain approves legislation which “apologizes unreservedly” to New Zealand Maori for taking their land in 1863.  The legislation included a payment of $112 million and the return of 39,000 acres to the Tainui people.

“Elizabeth II to Approve Maori Land Settlement.” New York Times. November 2, 1995.
24 April 1996 PLO apologizes for killing disabled American Leon Klinghoffer

Palestinian terrorist Mohammad (Abu) Abbas of the PLF apologizes for killing disabled American Leon Klinghoffer during the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Largo cruise ship.  A U.S. State Department spokesperson rejects the apology.

“U.S. rejects terrorist’s apology for Klinghoffer murder.” www.cnn.com. April 24, 1996.
August 1996 Former South African president F.W. de Klerk apologizes to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

 Former South African president F.W. de Klerk apologizes to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the “many unacceptable things that occurred during the government of his National Party.

“Apology for Apartheid.” Maclean’s. September 2, 1996.