Zahid Farooq Sheikh

“We will fight as long as we can. As long as the courts allow us to appeal, we will appeal over and over again, even if it takes another decade.”

– Farooq Sheikh, father of 16-year-old Zahid Farooq Sheikh, who was killed by security forces in 2010.

Sixteen-year-old Zahid Farooq Sheikh was killed in 2010 by the Border Security Force personnel as he was walking home from playing cricket with friends in Srinagar.

Unlike many past cases of alleged human rights violations, the state police investigation into Zahid’s killing was conducted swiftly, and within a few weeks of the incident, the police filed charges of murder against two BSF personnel.

The BSF did not deny that their soldiers were responsible for Zahid’s death, and began conducting security force court proceedings against the accused after the conclusion of the police investigations, arguing that because their personnel are always considered on “active duty” in a state designated as “disturbed,” they were empowered to try their personnel in a military court.

Zahid’s father, Farooq Sheikh and his family petitioned to have the case tried in a civilian court as they were not convinced they would get justice from the security forces. “We are not told anything when they conduct a trial. We don’t have access to any information. How will we know that the guilty are even punished? The only way we can be sure is to have the trial in the civil court,” said Farooq Sheikh.

In March 2013 Farooq Sheikh was called to testify before the BSF Security Force Court. Farooq says the BSF summoned him several times through the local police, but he was reluctant to attend the proceedings as they were held at the BSF camp at Panthachowk in Srinagar, which only military personnel are usually allowed to enter. He said he felt nervous about entering the BSF premises, and feared intimidation or harassment.

Farooq said that he and another witness, Mushtaq Wani, who was with Zahid when he was killed, went to testify before the Security Force Court, also in March 2013. The BSF had appointed a lawyer for them, who Farooq says was from Jammu. Farooq said, “They repeatedly tried to discredit Mushtaq. They repeatedly projected the incident as if there was stone-pelting at the time. But the police have made official reports that everything was normal at that time. No stone-pelting was going on…The cross-examination was done by a soldier who questioned Mushtaq and kept accusing him of being a militant, asking him about his activities and whereabouts.”

Farooq told Amnesty International India that he did not trust the BSF court proceedings. At the hearing, Farooq says that there were 14 other witnesses produced by the local police and witnesses from the BSF side. When he went to testify, he says, a senior officer of the unit fell at his feet and said, “Please forgive me, we have made a mistake.” Farooq replied, “How can I forgive you. You have killed an innocent boy.”

Farooq Sheikh said he has not been contacted by BSF authorities since he attended the hearing at Panthachowk in 2013.

THE PETITION

Fifteen Kashmiri families who lost their loved ones in cases of human rights violations by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir are urging the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defense to ensure the right to truth for victims, their families and affected communities and ensure that they have access to full disclosure about human rights violations. The families want both the ministries to:

1. Make informartion available related to all 15 cases highlighted by Amnesty International India on this digital platform.

2. Make information pertaining to the proceedings, verdicts and sentences of courts-martial and security force courts publicly accessible including through the Right to Information Act, 2005 and by other means including an online database

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