martial law

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martial law

martial law, temporary government and control by military authorities of a territory or state, when war or overwhelming public disturbance makes the civil authorities of the region unable to enforce its law. Martial law refers to rule by the domestic army only; the rule of occupied territory by an invading army is known as military government. During a war, a nation may invoke martial law in some or all of its territory as part of the war effort. Martial law is also applied in serious cases of internal dissension; the army authorities may take over the administrative and judicial functions, and civil safeguards (e.g., habeas corpus and freedom of speech) may also be suspended. Where the civil courts remain open, even if their orders are executed by the military, martial law is not applicable. In the United States the federal government is limited in applying martial law by the provision of Article 1, Section 9, Subsection 2, of the Constitution, which concerns the suspension of habeas corpus. In most U.S. states, martial law may be proclaimed when deemed necessary for the public's safety. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in ex parte Milligan (1866) ruled that military trial of civilians when the civil courts were functioning was unconstitutional. Martial law, which applies to all persons, civil and military, in the area is to be distinguished from military law, the system of rules of government applying only to those in military service.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Martial Law


a special condition in a country or particular parts of a country, usually established by the decision of the highest body of state power under exceptional circumstances (war, natural disasters, revolutionary actions by the masses in the capitalist countries, and so on).

In the USSR, in accordance with the Constitution (art. 49, par. T), the right to institute martial law and to define the reasons for doing so are given to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Under martial law all functions of bodies of state power in questions of defense, public order, and state security pass to the military bodies—the military councils and command. In order to defend the USSR, military authorities may assign citizens, institutions, and enterprises new duties (labor and other obligations); all cases of crimes directed against defense, public order, and state security and, if the military authorities so decide, other crimes are transferred to military tribunals; and increased responsibility is established according to wartime laws for failure to obey the orders and instructions of military bodies. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), martial law was declared by ukases of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet as follows: beginning in June 1941, it was in effect in Moscow, Leningrad, and a majority of the oblasts, krais, and republics of the European part of the USSR; beginning in August 1942, in some cities of Transcaucasia and along the Black and Caspian seacoasts; beginning in September 1942, in the Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Armenian SSR; beginning in April 1943, on all railroads in the country; and beginning in May 1943, on maritime and river transportation. It was not abolished until the end of the Great Patriotic War.

In the capitalist countries, martial law is widely used in both wartime and peacetime to suppress revolutionary actions. Martial law in the capitalist countries legalizes the arbitrary rule of military authorities, who are given the right to search and arrest without the usual formalities, to transfer cases to military courts, to forbid meetings and demonstrations, to close down newspapers and magazines, to disband societies, unions, and democratic parties, to exile undesirables from the area where martial law has been declared, and so on.

During peacetime, martial law has been instituted in France (1948), in various US cities and states for the armed suppression of strikes and also of racial disturbances (for example, in 1968), and in a number of other countries.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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