The San Francisco Chronicle (3/24) reported in the wake of popular demonstrations in Syria – initially met by army gunfire, that "the all-powerful Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963."
That's an astounding 48 years! And now there willing to "study" it??! Although a state of emergency is often declared after a natural disaster, a number of countries like Syria use it to quash dissent and target particular groups. The article said that Syria's state of emergency "allows people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. It goes on to say that there are detention centers known for torture, that hold prisoners for many years without trials.
It made me wonder how many other countries have imposed this type of "state of emergency" or outright martial law on their own citizens for long periods of time. Below are the infamous record-holders as I was able to glean from Wikipedia. I don't know how many of the countries actively used their extra-judicial powers on a regular basis to contain dissent, but if I'm a citizen in any of these countries, I'd prefer these arbitrary powers be taken off the books.
I hope that in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain, etc. a shift toward democracy actually succeeds, but even an end to these "states of emergency" will be an important step forward. Notably, since the demonstrations began in February, there are new "states of emergency" in Yemen, Bahrain, and Tunisia.
Israel - 63 years (since the War of Independence; not including martial law in the occupied areas)
Egypt - 44 years 1967 - 2011 (with an 18 month break)
Taiwan - 39 years 1948 - 1987
Turkey - 24 years 1978 - 2002
Algeria - 19 years 1992 - 2011
Pakistan -11 years 1977 - 1988 (and working on a new one begun in 2007)
Phillipines -9 years 1972 - 1981 (under Marcos)