Ventosilla’s family statement “raises very serious questions that deserve clear and specific answers,” said Harvard Kennedy School dean Douglas Elmendorf. “Harvard Kennedy School supports the family’s call for an immediate and thorough investigation and the 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 Foreign Ministry to press for an investigation into the conduct of Indonesian authorities. But in a statement released this week, the ministry appeared to side with Indonesian officials on the events.
In an August 22 press release, the Foreign Ministry denied that the actions of Indonesian authorities constituted anti-trans discrimination and violence. The ministry said the arrest happened because customs officials found pills with a medical prescription and “items containing traces of cannabis, as well as various products made with said substance.”
“As is well known, Indonesia maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding the possession of drugs and their derivatives, for which one of the detained nationals would have committed a serious crime under the strict laws of this country” , the ministry said.
He also said that the Peruvian consulate was in contact with local authorities throughout the process to ensure they complied with local laws and respected the rights of Ventosilla and Marallano.
Gianna Camacho, a spokesperson for the Ventosilla family, told BuzzFeed News they reject the department’s statement, calling it “offensive to the families” and “biased” against Sebastian and the families’ accounts.
“We demand a trial that determines those responsible for the torture, extortion and violation of human rights suffered by Sebastián and which led to Rodrigo’s death,” they said.
Marallano has since returned to Lima, the spokesperson said. Ventosilla’s body is expected to arrive on August 31.
The deterioration 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 sex on official documents after sex reassignment surgery. But authorities have relied on other laws to crack down on LGBTQ people in the country. Reports of violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Indonesia are rife, and local activists have said it could get worse.
Indonesia also has some of the strictest drug laws in the world. Foreigners have been sentenced to death for drug-related offenses in the past. Cannabis is considered a class 1 narcotic, and its possession can lead to years of imprisonment and heavy fines.
Most prescription drugs are allowed in Indonesia, although authorities strongly advise bringing a doctor’s letter and the original prescription with it. Foreign travelers have also been detained in Indonesia for carrying non-prescription drugs.