Crisis in Russia-Ukraine: What does martial law entail?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy imposed martial law and accused Russia of acting like “Nazi Germany” after President Vladimir Putin started an invasion of Ukraine. Zelenskyy had declared a national state of emergency earlier in the day, allowing for the government to impose travel restrictions, halt public gatherings, and even ban political parties and organisations.

To further understand what this implies for Ukrainians, Al Jazeera does a quick analysis.

What is martial law?

Zelenskyy said in an address on Thursday that the steps were implemented in response to Russia’s actions and urged people not to worry and stay at home.
“Dear Ukrainians, President Putin said this morning that a special military operation will be conducted in the Donbas. Russia conducted strikes on our military facilities and our border guards. There were blasts reported in numerous cities of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an address to the country.

“We are establishing martial law on the whole territory of our country.”

The action is frequently accompanied by curfews, the suspension of civil law, and the application or extension of military law and justice to civilians.

What does this signify for average civilians?

When martial law is invoked, military personnel and not civilian leaders make and apply the law. As a result, law enforcement in Ukraine is now the responsibility of Ukrainian army rather than police.

As such, regular citizens could be tried in military tribunals as opposed to civilian courts if they are accused of infringing martial law.

How is it different from a state of emergency?

The scope and length of a state of emergency are not unlimited, according to legal authorities. This is because most modern-day constitutions have given forth the conditions under which the measure can be invoked.

In contrast, martial law is a more vague term that is susceptible to the interpretation of those who enact it.