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 176 - 200 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
January 1998 France- the “judicial error” of the Dreyfus affair

French President Jacques Chirac apologizes for the “judicial error” of the Dreyfus affair on the 100-year anniversary of Emile Zola’s “J-accuse.”

Bowman, James. “Sorry about that.” New Criterion. May, 1998; Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
7 January 1998 Canada-Mistreatment of indigenous peoples

The Canadian government formally apologizes for its historic mistreatment of indigenous peoples.

DePalma, Anthony. “Canada’s Indigenous Tribes Receive Formal Apology.” New York Times. January 8, 1998; http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100015725/1100100015726
20 February 1998 Anglican Church of Australia participation in removing aboriginal children

The Anglican Church of Australia apologizes for its participation in the policy of forcibly removing aboriginal children from their mothers.

Mitchell, Emily. “Apologies: who’s sorry now?” Index of Censorship. May-June, 1998.
March 1998 USA-Slavery

In Uganda, President Clinton says that “European Americans received the fruits of the slave trade.  And we were wrong in that.”

Brookhiser, Richard. “America the Apologetic.” American Heritage. December, 1998.
16 March 1998 Catholic Church-the Holocaust

The Vatican apologizes for its silence and inaction during the Holocaust.

Henry, Patrick. “The French Catholic Church’s Apology.” The French Review. May, 1999; Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
25 March 1998 USA Inaction during the Rwanda genocide

U.S. President Clinton apologizes for inaction during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Mitchell, Emily. “Apologies: who’s sorry now?” Index of Censorship. May-June, 1998.
April 1998 USA Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apologizes to the family of Yankel Rosenbaum,

In the name of all New Yorkers, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apologizes to the family of Yankel Rosenbaum, a Hasidic man killed during the 1991 Crown Heights riots, and to the Hasidic community for the allegedly inadequate police response to the riots.  In the course of the apology, Giuliani also criticizes the family of a child whose death in an automobile sparked the riots.

Who’s sorry now?” Commonweal. April 24, 1998
22 April 1998 South Korean compensation from Japan for “comfort women”

South Korean President Kim Dae Woo announces that the South Korean government will end its efforts to gain official compensation from the Japanese government for “comfort women” but will still seek an official apology and will not prevent individuals from seeking compensation.

Strom, Stephanie. “Soul Won’t Seek Japan Funds for War’s Brothel Women.” New York Times. April 22, 1998.
27 April 1998 Japan court dismisses claims from Korean “comfort women”

 A Japanese court dismisses claims from Korean “comfort women” for an official apology and compensation, saying that even though the women had suffered greatly, the Japanese government was under no legal obligation to provide either an apology or compensation.

Okada, Taihei. “Translations: The ‘Comfort Women’ Case.” 8 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y. 63. January, 1999; Totsuka, Etsuro. “Translations: Commentary on a Victory for ‘Comfort Women.’” 8 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y. 47. January, 1999.
27 April 1998 The Germany-Bombing the Spanish village of Guernica

The German Parliament formally apologizes for bombing the Spanish village of Guernica on behalf of Gen. Francisco Franco on April 26, 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

Goodman, Al. “Spain: Parliament Blames Franco.” New York Times. June 25, 1999.
May 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 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.
26 May 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
July 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 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.
August 1998 Northern Ireland IRA apologizes for violence and killings

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.
October 1998 The United Church of Canada apology to former students of Indian residential schools

The United Church of Canada apologizes to former students of Indian residential schools.

http://www.united-church.ca/aboriginal/relationships/apologies
October 1998 Japan- South Korean apology” for inflicting “heavy damage and pain” on Koreans

 Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi gives visiting South Korean President Kim Dae Jung a written statement saying that Japan “expressed deep remorse and extended a heartfelt apology” for inflicting “heavy damage and pain” on Koreans.

October 1998 Argentina-Falklands War

Argentinian President Carlos Menem expresses regret over the Falklands War.

Askwith, Richard. “The Year of Saying Sorry.” Daily Telegraph. December 26, 1998.
November 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.
November 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 Portugeuse commander apologizes for Mozambique killings.

At a memorial in Mozambique, Portuguese veteran Antonino Melo apologizes for the massacre of hundreds of people in the village of Wiriyamu by Portuguese commandos in Operation Marosca on December 16, 1972.

“Regresso a Wiriyamu.” TV documentary by Felicia Cabrita and Fundacao Mario. Lisbon: November, 1998; Stock, Robert. “The Many Returns to Wiriyamu.” Chapter in (Re)Imagining African Independence. Maria do Carmo Picarra and Teresa Castro, eds. Peter Lang, 2017. p99.
1999 Christian militia, publishes a public letter of apology- Lebanon civil

February 10, 1999:  As’ad Shaftari, a former officer of a violent Christian militia, publishes a public letter of apology for killings and torture he ordered during Lebanon’s civil war.

Young, Michael. “The Sneer of Memory.” Middle East Report. Winter, 2000. p42.
1999 Catholic Church- Past Errors

Pope John Paul II asks forgiveness for the past errors of the Catholic Church but did not specify any such errors.

“Pope Repeats an Apology.” New York Times. September 2, 1999.
5 January 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