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Egypt: Court of Appeal Dismisses Theft Charges Against Boy for Stealing Bread

(Dec. 17, 2014) On December 10, 2014, the Court of Appeal in Bani Swief, south of Cairo, Egypt, dismissed theft charges against a nine-year-old boy who had been charged with stealing five loaves of bread. The first instance court had found the boy guilty of a crime under article 311 of the Penal Code and had accordingly decided to send him to a juvenile detention center for one year, based on article 101 of Law 12 of 1996. (An Egyptian Court Repeals the Decision of a First Instance Court to Send a Child to a Juvenile Detention Center for One Year for Stealing Bread, AL ARABIYA (Dec. 12, 2014) (in Arabic); Law No. 58 of 1937 (Criminal Code of 1937, revised 1952, as amended by Law No. 95 of 2003 & Law No. 147 of 2006), AL-WAQA’I’ AL-RASMIYYA [Official Gazette] (1937); Law 12/1996, 13 AL JARIDDAH AL-RASMIYYA 2 (Mar. 28 1996) (in Arabic), PROTECTION PROJECT.)

The case has raised a lot of discussion among legal scholars and human rights activists. Legal scholars who opposed the court of first instance decision said that the court followed the law by ordering that the child be sent to a juvenile detention center upon finding him guilty of a misdemeanor. However, in their view, the court ignored the motives behind the theft, which were hunger and poverty. The court also could have given the child a lesser sentence, they noted, because it was his first offense. (The Detention of a Child in Egypt for Stealing Bread, AL ARABY AL JADEED (Dec. 10, 2014) (in Arabic).)

Human rights activists have stressed that the case exemplifies the social injustice plaguing Egyptian society. According to news reports, many of those activists have expressed frustration with the justice system. The activists have pointed out that many of the white-collar cases related to corruption and embezzlement by businessmen were dismissed by the courts, while a hungry child is sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for stealing bread. (Child Who Needs Bread Is Detained and Businessman Who Steals a Billion Egyptian Pounds Becomes a Cabinet Minister, KLMTY (Dec. 11, 2014) (in Arabic).)