Lawyer Romeo Monterrosa and his family have received a string of death threats, and suffered intimidation, believed to be linked to his work defending peasant farmers against powerful landowners. Amnesty International believes they are in grave danger.
Romeo Monterrosa is representing the human rights NGO Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), as party to the state prosecution proceedings, in charging the owner of the El Corozo farm with the murder of eight farm workers who were shot dead during protests against the land owner on 24th January, 2005. Police were present but took no action. Families of the victims have withdrawn their charges, allegedly under pressure from the landowner. Judge José Víctor Bautista Orozcoin was withdrawn from the case in April 2005; he was murdered a few days later.
Romeo Monterrosa is also representing the farm workers who claim ownership of the Colonia La Catorze farm, which is on the coast in Puerto San José. The farm was sold to a Panamanian company in 1996, despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits non-Guatemalans from owning property within 15km of the country’s borders, including its coastline. The notary public who authorised the deal is now the Solicitor General
On 30th September, 2005 while at a meeting to discuss the land rights cases in the office of the Solicitor General, Romeo Monterrosa received a text message on his mobile saying “you know you are a son of a bitch, and everything you have done in your fucking life, you are going to pay for it with what you love most.” Romeo Monterrosa fears this as a threat towards his wife and daughters.
During the night of 8th October, 2005 there was an unsuccessful attempt to break into Romeo Monterrosa’s office. The lock prevented entry.
GAM reported all this to the Supreme Court on 11th October, 2005 asking the authorities to order an investigation.
On 16th October, 2005 Monterrosa’s wife received three text messages that appeared to come from Romeo Monterrosa’s mobile phone, between 4 and 5pm. The first message stated “Get in touch with me, I need to talk to you urgently”; the second “I’m trying to call you, return the call”, and the last “Get in touch”. She contacted her husband, but Monterrosa had not sent any messages.
LRWC Action: letter by Brenda Wemp was sent on Oct 25th, 2005.