Monday, September 05, 2005

What is Martial Law?

Martial law is the system of rules that takes effect (usually after a formal declaration) when a military authority takes control of the normal administration of justice.

Martial law is instituted most often when it becomes necessary to favor the activity of military authorities and organizations, usually for urgent unforeseen needs, and when the normal institutions of justice either cannot function or could be deemed too slow or too weak for the new situation; e.g., due to war, major natural disaster, civil disorder, in occupied territory, or after a coup d'etat. The need to preserve the public order during an emergency is the essential goal of martial law. However, declaration of martial law is also sometimes used by dictatorships, especially military dictatorships, to enforce their rule.

Usually martial law reduces some of the personal rights ordinarily granted to the citizen, limits the length of the trial processes, and prescribes more severe penalties than ordinary law. In many countries martial law prescribes the death penalty for certain crimes, even if ordinary law doesn't contain that crime or punishment in its system.

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

The martial law concept in the U.S. is closely tied with the Writ 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 handed down between the American Civil War and World War II. In Ex Parte Milligan 71 US 2 1866, the Supreme Court of the United States held that martial law could not be instituted within the United States when its civilian courts are in operation. In 1878, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids military involvement in domestic law enforcement without congressional approval. The National Guard is an exception, since unless federalized, they are under the control of state governors.

Contrary to many media reports, martial law has not been declared in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, because no such term exists in Louisiana state law. Rather, a state of emergency has been declared, which does give some powers similar to that of martial law. On the evening of August 31, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin did declare "martial law" (in name at least) in the city and said that "officers don't have to worry about civil rights and Miranda rights in stopping the looters."

Another common rule during riots and disasters is a curfew from sunset until sunrise.

Flooded Buses

This is a photo of a parking lot full of buses. If only the hundreds of school buses and city buses had been used in the days leading up to the hurricane, instead of being left be destroyed in the parking lot.

If someone were to take one of those buses, and drive 100 strangers to saftey, I would consider that person to be a hero.

World Relief for Huricane Victems

India donates to Huricane Relief. Ronen Sen, said in a statement after conveying the Indian offer to the Bush administration.

A sum of $5 million released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday for hurricane relief aid to the US is already being deposited in an account of the American Red Cross, Indian embassy officials here said.

Sen said in his statement: “We recall the very close cooperation between India and the US to provide succour and support to the tsunami-affected countries in the Indian Ocean region.

“The Indian and US navies had worked in close cooperation during that disaster, although India itself was one of the affected nations.”

Kuwait Donates $500 Million For Hurricane Relief

The offer is the largest known put forward since the hurricane ravaged Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and follows a $100 million aid donation from the emir of a Mideast neighbor, Qatar.

Kuwait's energy minister said his country would provide "oil products that the disaster-stricken states need in addition to other humanitarian aid."

"It's our duty as Kuwaitis to stand by our friends to lighten the humanitarian misery and as a payback for the many situations during which Washington helped us through the significant relations between the two friendly countries," Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah said in a statement carried by Kuwait's official news agency, KUNA.

China Offers Money

The Chinese government has offered five million US dollar worth of aid to the United States and will also send rescue workers to help with medical treatment and epidemic prevention in the disaster-stricken areas, Chinese Foreign Ministry announced earlier.
Chinese President Hu JintaoHu was quoted by the release as saying that the Chinese people will firmly stand together with the US people who are faced with a difficult time of severe natural disaster.

A state department official said yesterday that it was doing a needs assessment to determine which of the large number of aid offers received from all over the world would be accepted.

Bush told ABC-TV: "I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."

"You know," he said, "we would love help, but we're going to take care of our own business as well, and there's no doubt in my mind we'll succeed. And there's no doubt in my mind, as I sit here talking to you, that New Orleans is going to rise up again as a great city."

The problem with large scale aid from foreign nations is that it is mostly done by those nation's military. Do Americans want foreign soldiers in uniform giving aid on their soil. Would they be allowed to carry their weapons for self defense? Would American citizens accept direction from Chinese soldiers wearing the uniform of the Red Army? Cuba knows a lot about hurricane relief, wouldn't it be a kick in the pants to have to accept help from those damn commies.

-Gary Milner

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