During the attempted coup in Turkey earlier this month, the military announced that it would impose a curfew and place the country under martial law. The coup failed and martial law was never imposed -- but what does the term actually mean? Laura Ling explains in today's Seeker Daily dispatch.
In strict dictionary-definition terms, martial law is just that -- the military replaces the standing government and civilian populations are put under the authority of military officials. The highest ranking military official becomes the head of state.
More immediately relevant for civilians is that, under martial law, individual rights and certain civil liberties are suspended indefinitely. Freedom of movement or association may be curtailed; laws regarding searches and seizures can be set aside. It's a rare and extreme measure taken by governments to impose order in the event of a mass uprising or natural disaster.
In the United States, martial law is tied to the concept of habeas corpus, which gives the judiciary authority over law enforcement. When habeas corpus is suspended, the country is essentially in a state of martial law. It's only happened once in U.S. history -- on the federal level -- when President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War.
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On the state and local level, however, things are different. Before it became our 50th state, Hawaii was placed under martial law following the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. The city of San Francisco saw similar circumstances after the earthquake of 1908.
The imposition of martial law is more common in other countries, especially Southeast Asia. Government officials in the Philippines have instituted martial law five times, for varying periods of time. Thailand has endured 12 military takeovers in the past 100 years, most recently in 2014.
Martial law is meant to be a temporary measure imposed in extreme circumstances. It's a difficult condition for any democratic nation to sustain and civilian populations naturally resist it. In fact, during the recent attempted coup in Turkey, many citizens rallied behind the controversial ruling party -- even though the Turkish military is commonly regarded as the protector of the people and defender of secular law. Had the coup succeeded, it would have been the fourth time the military has seized power in Turkey.
-- Glenn McDonald
CNN: Turkey post-coup crackdown nets 50,000 people
New York Times: Turkish President Returns to Istanbul in Sign Military Coup Is Faltering
Encyclopedia: Martial Law
Mental Floss: What is Martial Law?