Legal Dictionary

martial law

Definition of martial law


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

Further reading

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

It is sometimes imposed in response to civic emergencies or episodes of unrest or riots, or during wars or in cases of 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 suppress the opposition (Poland in 1981). Another example would be The October Crisis which took place in Canada in October 1970. Martial law can be declared in cases of major natural disasters also; 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.


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1.     lex causae
2.     lex situs
3.     lex loci celebrationis
4.     lex patriae
5.     Clayton's Case
6.     lex domicilii
7.     AORO
8.     lex loci delicti commissi
9.     defence of property
10.     Miranda warning