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Death in detention in the Northern part of Tunisia: a 15-year study (2005–2019)

Mohamed Amine Zaara (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)
Mehdi Ben Khelil (Faculty of Medicine of Tunis, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia; Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Trauma and Burn Center, Ben Arous, Tunisia)
Mohamed Bellali (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)
Meriem Gharbaoui (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)
Ikram Kort (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)
Ahmed Banasr (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)
Mongi Zhioua (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)
Moncef Hamdoun (Faculty of Medicine, University of Tunis El Manar, Tunis, Tunisia and Department of Legal Medicine, Charles Nicolle Hospital, Tunis, Tunisia)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 19 December 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to analyze the pattern of deaths in detention in Northern Tunisia as well as the causes of death.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a cross-sectional retrospective study including all the casualties of death in detention examined in the legal medicine Department in the main teaching hospital from 2005 to 2019. The department covers 10 out of the 11 governorates of Northern Tunisia and 13 prisons.

Findings

Of a total of 197 casualties, only 2 were females. The mean age was 45.39 ± 14.43 years. A known medical history was reported in 63.5%, mainly cardiovascular disease, mental health disorders and diabetes. Half of the deaths occurred at the hospital. A total of 53 victims spent less than one year in custody before their death. Most deaths occurred due to disease-related causes (78.7%; n = 155); among these, 69 victims died from cardiovascular disease. Suicide accounted for 3.6% of the casualties and homicides for four cases.

Research limitations/implications

Several missing data regarding the details of the detention circumstances as well as the absence in some cases of the toxicological and histopathology analysis results, which could bias the study findings.

Practical implications

Death in detention in Northern Tunisia involved mainly males between their 30s and their 50s who died mainly from cardiovascular or pulmonary disease. These results underscore the importance of empowering the penitentiary health system.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of largest studies with regard to the number of decedents and the number of prisons from the Arab countries allowing to draw a pattern of casualties of death in prison.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all the medical staff working in the different detention centers for their efforts.

Citation

Zaara, M.A., Ben Khelil, M., Bellali, M., Gharbaoui, M., Kort, I., Banasr, A., Zhioua, M. and Hamdoun, M. (2022), "Death in detention in the Northern part of Tunisia: a 15-year study (2005–2019)", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-02-2022-0015

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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