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martial law

Government by the military authorities when the normal machinery of government has broken down as a result of invasion, civil war, or large-scale insurrection. The constitution of the UK does not provide for a declaration (with specified consequences) of martial law: it is no more than a situation capable of arising. While the military authorities are restoring order, their conduct could not be called into question by the ordinary courts of law. After the restoration of order, the legality of their actions would be theoretically capable of examination, but the standards that would be applied by the courts are unknown. Martial law should not be confused with military law (see *service law); any courts held by the military authorities to try civilians during a state of martial law would not enjoy the status of courts martial.

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