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Montjuic: From Prison to Peace Center

Light has come to this dungeon at Montjuic, which is now being used as a Peace Center in Barcelona, Spain. (photo by Friday Apaliski)

Professor John Cerone has spent the last 10 days teaching his students the ins and outs of international human rights law. Now that they have the basics down, they will spend the rest of the semester comparing the status of human rights in each port of call. Today his students visit Montjuic castle in Barcelona, Spain, for an unforgettable learning experience.

Originally constructed as a watchtower in 1640, Montjuic served to protect the city from invaders, until its renovation in the late 1700’s redefined its purpose.

In the 1800’s and 1900’s the guns and cannons that were used to protect the city were directed away from the sea and turned onto the people of Barcelona.
Eva Lopez, Gestora de Programes at Castell de Montjuic.

At one point Montjuic held 4,000 political prisoners; literally busting at the seams. Time and time again demonstrators, political dissidents and even elected presidents have been detained, tortured, and executed at this castle.

The castle continued to serve as a military prison until 1963 when it was converted to a military museum. In 2009 it was handed over from the military to the Barcelona City Council and is now being used to house the Barcelona International Peace Resource Center.

Students spent the afternoon discussing current human right issues in Spain and specifically Barcelona with representatives from Catalan Institute of Human Rights and Amnesty International. The conversation was moderated by professor John Cerone; he has worked at the peace center recently to train UN officials and national military officers in international humanitarian law. Additionally, students were led on a behind the scenes tour of the castle that isn’t normally open to the public.

The juxtaposition of learning about human rights law in a castle used to commit many of the atrocities working to be prevented is an experience these students will never forget. This ordinarily a-typical experience is just a normal day on Semester at Sea.

Please tell us about an experience you had that brought your classroom lectures to life.

  • Education

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