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Martial law is the system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice.

Martial law is sometimes imposed during wars or occupations in the absence of any other civil government. Examples of this form of military rule include Germany and Japan after World War II or the American South during the early stages of Reconstruction. In addition, it is used by governments to enforce their rule; for example, after a coup d'état (Thailand 2006), when threatened by popular protests (Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), or to crack down on the opposition (Poland 1981). Another example would be The October Crisis which took place in Canada in October of 1970. Martial law can also be declared in cases of major natural disasters; however most countries use a different legal construct, such as a "state of emergency".

In many countries martial law imposes particular rules, one of which is curfew. Often, under this system, the administration of justice is left to a military tribunal, called a court-martial. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is likely to occur.


Martial law across the world



Since 1867 (the year of the Canadian confederation), martial law has never been declared in Canada. However the War Measures Act, enacted in 1914, grants the Governor in Council sweeping emergency powers, stopping short of martial law in that the military does not administer justice, which remains in the hands of the courts. The Act has been invoked three times: During World War I, World War II, and the October Crisis of 1970. In 1988, the War Measures Act was replaced by the Emergencies Act.

Prior to 1867, martial law was proclaimed and applied on the territory of the Province of Quebec during the invasion of Canada by the army of the American Continental Congress in 1775-1776. It is also applied twice on the territory of Lower Canada during the 1837-1838 insurrections.

On December 5, following the events of November 1837, martial law is proclaimed in the district of Montreal by Governor Gosford, without the support of the Legislative Assembly in the Parliament of Lower Canada. It is imposed until April 27, 1838.

It is proclaimed a second time on November 4, 1838, this time by acting Governor John Colborne, and this applied in the district of Montreal until August 24, 1839. [1]


In Egypt, a State of Emergency has been imposed almost continuously since 1967 CE Due to the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981, martial law was declared. Egypt has been under martial law ever since - the Parliament has renewed the emergency laws every three years since they were imposed. The legislation was last extended in 2003 and was due to expire at the end of May 2006; plans were in place to replace them with new anti-terrorism laws, but after the Dahab bombings in April, martial law was renewed for another two years. [2][3] In May 2008 there was a further extension to June 2010. [4]

Martial law allows the government to detain anyone deemed to be threatening state security for renewable 45-day periods without court orders and also give military courts the power to try civilians.

Public demonstrations are banned under the legislation.


During the Easter Rising in 1916, Lord Wimborne, cousin of Winston Churchill and then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, declared martial law was to enforced on the streets of Dublin. This was later extended both in duration and geographical reach to the whole of the country with the consent of the British government. Much of Ireland was declared under martial law by the British authorities during the Irish War of Independence. Much of Ireland was also under de facto martial law during the Irish Civil War


Military administrative government was in effect from 1949 to 1966 over some geographical areas of Israel, which had large Arab populations, primarily the Negev, Galilee, and the Triangle. The residents of these areas were subject to a number of controlling measures that amounted to martial law.[5][6] Permits from the military governor had to be procured to travel more than a given distance from their registered place of residence and curfew, administrative detentions, and expulsions were common.[5] Though the military administration was officially for geographical areas, and not people, its restrictions were seldom enforced on the Jewish residents of these areas. In the 1950s, martial law ceased to be in effect for those Arab citizens living in predominantly-Jewish cities, but remained in place in all Arab localities within Israel until 1966.[5]

During the 2006 Lebanon war, martial law was declared by Defense Minister Amir Peretz over the North of the country. The Israel Defense Forces were granted the authority to issue instructions to civilians, and close down offices, schools, camps and factories in cities considered under threat of attack, as well as to impose curfews on cities in the North.[7] Instructions of the Home Front Command are obligatory under martial law, rather than merely recommendatory.[7] The order signed by Peretz was in effect for 48 hours.[7] It was extended by the Cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee over the war's duration.[citation needed]


Martial law has been declared in Pakistan three times. In the first instance President Iskander Mirza abrogated the Constitution in 1958 and declared Martial Law over the country. The second instance was when General Yahya Khan declared martial law in March, 1969 after Mirza's successor, General Ayub Khan handed over power to him. the 3rd by Gen Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

After several tumultuous years, which witnessed the secession of East Pakistan, politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over in 1971 as the first civilian martial law administrator in recent history, imposing selective martial law in areas hostile to his rule, such as the country's largest province, Balochistan. Following widespread civil disorder, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq overthrew Bhutto and imposed martial law in its totality on July 5, 1977 in a bloodless coup d'etat. Unstable areas were brought under control through indirect military action, such as Balochistan under Martial Law Governor, General Rahimuddin Khan. Civilian government resumed in 1988 following General Zia's death in an aircraft crash.

On October 12, 1999, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was dissolved, and the Army took control once more. But no Martial Law was imposed. General Pervez Musharraf took the title of Chief Executive until the President Rafiq Tarar resigned and General Musharraf became President. Elections were held in October 2002 and Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali became Prime Minister. Jamali premiership was followed by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Shaukat Aziz. While the government was supposed to be run by the elected Prime Minister, there was a common understanding that important decisions were made by the President General Parvez Musharraf.

On November 03, 2007, President General Pervez Musharraf declared the state of emergency in the country which is claimed to be equivalent to the state of Martial Law as the constitution of Pakistan of 1973, was suspended, and the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court were fired.

On November 12, 2007, President General Pervez Musharraf issued some amendments in the Military Act, which gave the Armed forces some additional powers.


President Jose P. Laurel of the wartime Second Republic (puppet-government under Japan) placed the Philippines under martial law in 1944 through Proclamation No. 29, dated September 21. Martial law came into effect on September 22, 1944 at 9am. Proclamation No. 30 was issued the next day, declaring the existence of a state of war between the Philippines and the US and Great Britain. This took effect on September 23, 1944 at 10am.

The Philippines was under martial law again from 1972 to 1981 under the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Martial law was declared to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of communist takeover following a series of bombings in Manila. The declaration of martial law was initially well-received by some segment of the people but became unpopular as excesses and human rights abuses by the military emerged. Torture was used in extracting information from their enemies. Proclamation No. 1081 (Proclaiming a State of Martial Law in the Philippines) was signed on September 21, 1972 and came into force on September 22 - interestingly enough exactly 28 years after President Jose P. Laurel's similar proclamations. Because of the many violated rights and abuse of authority of Marcos, the well known event of the "People Power Revolution" took place.The People Power Revolution was a massive protest, people only used rosaries and gave sandwiches, food etc to the soldiers until such time that the soldiers aimed their guns to Marcos and Marcos had to go on exile with his wife.

There were rumours that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was planning to impose martial law to put an end to military coup plotters and general civilian dissatisfaction and criticism of the legitimacy of her presidency due to dubious election results. Instead, however, a "State of National Emergency" was imposed to crush a coup plot and tackle protesters which lasted from February 24, 2006 until March 3 of the same year.


Martial law was introduced in Communist Poland on December 13, 1981 by Generals Czesław Kiszczak and Wojciech Jaruzelski to prevent democratic opposition from gaining popularity and political power in the country. Thousands of people linked to democratic opposition, including Lech Wałęsa, were arbitrary arrested and detained. About 100 deaths are attributed to the martial law, including 9 miners shot by the police during the pacification of striking Wujek Coal Mine. The martial law was lifted July 22, 1983. Polish society is divided in opinion on the necessity of introduction of the martial law, which is viewed as a lesser evil compared to alleged Soviet military intervention. Generals' legal trials are still in progress after 25 years from the events.


There are no provisions for martial law as such in Switzerland. Under the Army Law of 1995 [6], the Army can be called upon by cantonal (state) authorities for assistance (Assistenzdienst). This regularly happens in the case of natural disasters or special protection requirements (e.g., for the World Economic Forum in Davos). This assistance generally requires parliamentary authorization, though, and takes place in the regular legal framework and under the civilian leadership of the cantonal authorities. On the other hand, the federal authorities are authorized to use the Army to enforce law and order when the Cantons no longer can or want to do so (Ordnungsdienst). This power largely fell into disuse after World War II. See [7].


After the Republic of China gained control of Taiwan following World War II, the distinction of having the longest period of martial law in modern history was imposed on Taiwan. In the aftermath of the 2-28 Incident of 1947, martial law was declared in 1948. After the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government lost control of its possessions in mainland Asia to the Communist Party of China and retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the perceived need to suppress Communist activities in Taiwan meant that the martial law was not lifted until 1987.


In Thailand many coups have taken place since the 1930s, but many have failed. In January 2004, the former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, declared a state of martial law in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat in response to the growing South Thailand insurgency. On September 19, 2006, Thailand's Army declared martial law following a bloodless military coup in the Thai capital of Bangkok, declared while The Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. General Sonthi Boonyaratglin took the control of the Government, and soon after handed the premiership to Ex-Army Chief General Surayud. Sonthi himself is Chief of the Administrative Reform Council.

FR Yugoslavia

During the Yugoslav Wars in 1991, it was declared "State of Direct War Threat". Although forces from whole SFRY were included in this conflict, martial law was never announced, but after secession, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina declared Martial law. In March 23 1999, "State of Direct War Threat" was declared in Yugoslavia, following possibility of NATO air-strikes. Day after, when strikes had begun, Martial law has been declared, and it had duration until June 15, that year, although strikes ended on June 10, following Kumanovo agreement.

United States of America

The martial law concept in the U.S. is closely tied with the right of habeas corpus, which is in essence the right to a hearing on lawful imprisonment, or more broadly, the supervision of law enforcement by the judiciary. The ability to suspend habeas corpus is often equated with martial law. Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states, "The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety may require it."

In United States law, martial law is limited by several court decisions that were handed down between the American Civil War and World War II. In 1878, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids military involvement in domestic law enforcement without congressional approval. On October 1, 2002 United States Northern Command was established to provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. [8].

Ex parte Milligan

On September 15, 1863, President Lincoln imposed Congressionally-authorized martial law. The authorizing act allowed the President to suspend habeas corpus throughout the entire United States. Lincoln imposed the suspension on "prisoners of war, spies, or aiders and abettors of the enemy," as well as on other classes of people, such as draft dodgers. The President's proclamation was challenged in Ex parte Milligan, 71 US 2 [1866]). The Supreme Court ruled that Lincoln's imposition of martial law (by way of suspension of habeas corpus) was unconstitutional.

The National Guard is an exception, since unless federalized, they are under the control of state governors. [9] This was changed briefly: Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122), was signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006, and allowed the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities. Title V, Subtitle B, Part II, Section 525(a) of the JWDAA of 2007 reads "The [military] Secretary [of the Army, Navy or Air Force] concerned may order a member of a reserve component under the Secretary's jurisdiction to active duty...The training or duty ordered to be performed...may of operations or missions undertaken by the member's unit at the request of the President or Secretary of Defense." [10] The President signed the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 on January 13, 2008. However, Section 1068 in the enacted 2008 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4986: "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008") repealed this section of PL 109-364. [11]

New Orleans, Louisiana in the War of 1812

During the War of 1812, U.S. General Andrew Jackson imposed martial law in New Orleans, Louisiana after capturing the encampment of New Orleans from the British in the Battle of New Orleans.

The American Revolution

As a result of the Boston Tea Party, King George III of Britain, ordered martial law in Boston to keep riots and protest down.

The Territory of Hawaii

During World War II (1939 to 1945) what is now the State of Hawaii was held under martial law from December 7, 1941 to October 24, 1944.

Hurricane Katrina

Contrary to many media reports at the time, martial law was not declared in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, because no such term exists in Louisiana state law. However, a State of Emergency was declared, which does give unique powers to the state government similar to those of martial law. On the evening of August 31, 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin nominally declared "martial law" and said that officers didn't have to observe civil rights and Miranda rights in stopping the looters. [12] Federal troops were a common sight in New Orleans after Katrina. At one point, as many as 15,000 federal troops and National Guardsmen patrolled the city. Additionally it has been reported that armed contractors from Blackwater USA assisted in policing the city.[13]

See also "What Is Martial Law? And is New Orleans under it?" by the Slate Explainer.

Schenectady, New York

The city of Schenectady, New York is, as of March 24, 2009, considering disbanding its police force and declaring martial law until they can form a new police force. Mayor Brian Stratton is considering this move because the city's police department has been filled with corruption and slammed with allegations about its officers, ranging from drunk driving to battery. The mayor himself does not, however, have the power to declare martial law; this can only be done by Governor David Paterson. "It's a contrived scenario, but it's not beyond the realm of possibilities," the mayor said.[14]

See also

Additional reading


  1. ^ Françoise Dubuc. "La Loi martiale telle qu'imposée au Québec en 1837 et en 1838", in Les Patriotes de 1837@1838, May 20, 2000, retrieved May 10, 2009
  2. ^ Simon Apiku. Egypt to lift 25-year-old emergency laws. Middle East On-line, 23 March 2006.[1]
  3. ^ Joelle Bassoul. Egypt renews state of emergency for two years. Middle East On-line, 1 May 2005. [2]
  4. ^ Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani. EGYPT: Despair Over Two More Years of Martial Law.Inter Press Service News Agency. [3]
  5. ^ a b c Valerie Féron (2001). Palestine(s): Les déchirures. Paris, Editions du Felin. ISBN 2866453913. 
  6. ^ Bassma Kodmani-Darwish (1997). La Diaspora Palestinienne. ISBN 2130484867. 
  7. ^ a b c Yaakov Katz and Amir Mizroch (15 July 2006). "Martial Law Declared in the North". 
  8. ^ United States Northern Command website [4]
  9. ^ Martial Law at US Constitution online. [5]
  10. ^ Remarks Of Sen. Patrick Leahy, National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2007
  11. ^ Defense Authorization Act of 2008
  12. ^ Edward, Irwin; AP contributions (2005-08-31). "Nagin declares Martial Law to crack down on looters". WWLTV. Retrieved on 2007-05-24. 
  13. ^ Blackwater: Shadow Army by Jeremy Scahill
  14. ^ from Capital News 9
  15. ^ Macomb on Martial Law and Courts Martial.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Wikipedia has an article on:


martial law

  1. Rules by military authorities, especially when imposed on a civilian population in time of war or other crisis, or in an occupied territory


See also


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