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Temporary rule of a designated area by military authorities in time of emergency when the civil authorities are deemed unable to function. Under martial law, civil rights are usually suspended, and the activities of civil courts are restricted or supplanted entirely by military tribunals. Such acts done by necessity are limited only by international law and the conventions of civilized warfare. Though temporary in theory, a state of martial law may in fact continue indefinitely. See alsohuman rights; war crimes.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on martial law, visit Britannica.com.