Ventocilla’s family’s statement “raises very serious questions that deserve clear and precise answers,” said Douglas Elmendorf of the Harvard Kennedy School. “The Harvard Kennedy School supports the family’s call for an immediate and thorough investigation and the public release of all relevant information, and the school stands with all of Rodrigo’s friends and colleagues and the LGBTQ+ community.”
Ventosilla’s family has asked the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand an investigation into the conduct of Indonesian officials. But in a statement issued this week, the ministry sided with Indonesian officials’ account of events.
In a news release on August 22, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that the actions of Indonesian authorities amounted to discrimination and trans violence. The ministry said the arrest occurred because customs officials found pills containing a medical prescription and “materials containing traces of marijuana and various products made from this material.”
“As is public knowledge, Indonesia maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding the possession of drugs and their derivatives, for which one of the detained nationals commits a serious crime under that country’s strict laws,” the ministry said.
It said the Peruvian consulate is in contact with local authorities to ensure they work within local law and respect the rights of Ventosilla and Marallano.
Gianna Camacho, a spokeswoman for Ventocilla’s family, told BuzzFeed News they reject the ministry’s statement, calling it a “crime against families” and “biased” against Sebastian and the families’ accounts.
“We demand a process to determine those responsible for the torture, extortion and human rights violations that Sebastian suffered and that led to Rodrigo’s death,” he said.
Marallano has since returned to Lima, the spokesman said. Ventosilla’s body is expected to arrive on August 31.
The decline of LGBTQ rights in Indonesia has alarmed activists and human rights organizations. There is no law explicitly prohibiting same-sex relationships, and trans people can change their gender on official documents after gender reassignment surgery. But authorities have leaned on other laws to crack down on LGBTQ people in the country. Reports of violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Indonesia are rampant, and local activists say it could get worse.
Indonesia has some of the strictest drug laws in the world. Travelers from other countries have previously been sentenced to death for drug offences. Marijuana is considered a Class 1 drug and possession can result in years in prison and hefty fines.
Most prescription drugs are allowed into Indonesia, although authorities strongly advise bringing a doctor’s letter and the original prescription with you. International travelers have also been arrested for carrying drugs without a prescription in Indonesia.