The Measure of Mercy: Islamic Justice, Sovereign Power, and Human Rights in Iran

Peer Reviewed


In January 2000, Iranian government agents hailed a last-minute death sentence reprieve as an expression of Islamic human rights. Officials mobilized a native source of human rights in the invocation of mercy. For some, the proliferation of human rights norms situates a state in the fold of modernity, whereas the "spectacle of the scaffold" suggests a premodern demonstration of sovereign power. Through a study of sovereign power and human rights, this article questions the seemingly clear-cut divide between premodern and modern forms of justice and suggests that contemporary appeals to mercy as human rights should not be dismissed as being outside modern forms of state sovereignty.

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