In December 2008 the National Criminal Court ruled that it was not competent to investigate cases of enforced disappearances dating from the Spanish Civil War and early years of the rule of Francisco Franco; it therefore referred the 114,266 suspected cases of enforced disappearance to the 43 local criminal courts in whose jurisdiction the mass graves had been found. Subsequently, 13 courts classified the cases as ordinary crimes and closed the investigations on the grounds that the crimes had passed the statute of limitations (which sets a maximum period of time that legal proceedings may be initiated after a specific crime). Only three of the local courts classified the cases as crimes under international law (which have no expiry date). These investigations were ongoing at the end of the year.
On 11 March the Senate rejected a draft law calling on the government to take on the task of locating, exhuming and identifying the remains of victims of the Civil War and the rule of Francisco Franco. This was in contradiction to the 2007 Law of Historical Memory, which contained provisions to help families locate and recover the remains of their loved ones. The 2007 law itself falls short of international standards relating to the right to reparation for victims and relatives of victims of gross human rights violations.
In October, parliament adopted an amendment to the Law on the Judiciary, which would restrict the application of universal jurisdiction. Thirteen cases under investigation in Spain could be closed as a result. The amendment limits universal jurisdiction to cases in which the victims are Spanish or in which Spain has a "relevant connecting link", where the alleged perpetrator is in Spain, and as long as no effective investigation or prosecution has already begun in another country or international court. The criteria for determining what constitutes "effective" in this context were not defined. The legislative amendment was passed without specific debate.
Amnesty International visit/reports
Amnesty International delegates visited Spain in November.
Spain: Out of the Shadows - time to end incommunicado detention (15 September 2009)
Spain: Adding insult to injury - police impunity two years on (3 November 2009)
Spain: Briefing to the Committee against Torture (1 November 2009)