Martial Law vs. State of War - Legal Distinctions and International Recognition

From a legal standpoint, the concept of “martial law” is more thoroughly delineated within Ukraine’s “Law on the Legal Regime of Martial Law” compared to the vague treatment of a “state of war” in the “Defense of Ukraine Law.” The crucial distinction rests on international acknowledgment of Ukraine being in a state of war, a status vital for rectifying breached human rights. Yet, the Ukrainian government’s failure to formally recognize a state of war with the Russian Federation has left Ukraine and Russia in a de facto state of peace. This omission blocks the path to formally concluding the war, achieving peace, and significantly, robs Ukrainian citizens of the chance to reclaim their rights and seek reparations for the war’s toll from Russia.

The imposition of martial law in Ukraine has led to curtailed citizen rights, with far-reaching implications for Ukraine’s diplomatic engagements, notably hindering Ukrainian citizens’ prospects of obtaining reparations from Russia through international legal channels.

Currently, in the eyes of international legal bodies, from the UN to various arbitration panels, the conflict is not recognized as a war. There exists a state of martial law and isolated military engagements, but neither Ukraine nor Russia is deemed to be in a formal state of war under international law.

This situation opens the door to potential misuse of the martial law regime for undemocratic practices within Ukraine, such as quashing civil protests and orchestrating governmental coups.

Given that neither the “Law on the Legal Regime of Martial Law,” the Presidential Decree No. 64/2022 introducing martial law, the law endorsing this decree, nor the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Resolution No. 57 explicitly mention restrictions on leaving Ukraine or the requisite conditions for border crossing, the contested decision lacks proper legal foundation.

None of these legal documents specify limitations on the rights of Ukrainian citizens, including men’s rights to exit Ukraine during martial law. This glaring legal oversight represents a stark abdication of responsibility by the Ukrainian government, leaving its citizens entangled in a web of legal ambiguity and injustice.



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