Despite some positive developments in recent years, women continued to be killed by their partners and former partners. Migrant women who were victims of domestic violence continued to face additional difficulties in obtaining justice and specialist services. The institutional response to other forms of gender based violence, including human trafficking for sexual exploitation, remained inadequate. There was no institutionalized system for identifying victims of sex trafficking or referring them for assistance. Victims of gender-based violence seeking redress faced numerous obstacles, including lack of compensation for the psychological effects of violence.
Eight years after being run over and stabbed 15 times by her ex-husband, Ascensión Anguita had still received no compensation for the attack, and her recovery was impeded by inadequate institutional support. She remained unable to work and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, living on a monthly disability allowance of €401. In July 2008, her ex-husband became entitled to six days leave a month from prison, during which time Ascensión Anguita had to leave her home and go into hiding. The police told her they did not have sufficient resources to protect her.
The National Human Rights Plan launched in 2008 contained a provision to establish a comprehensive National Strategy to Combat Racism; however, at the end of the year this had still not begun, contrary to the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. The Council for Advancement and Equal Treatment, established by law in 2003, was still not operational. According to the 2009 annual report of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, published in June, this leaves Spain as one of only four EU countries that do not have a national equality body producing statistics on complaints about racism. Spain is also one of just six EU member states that do not collect or publish official data on racist crimes.
In September, Spain ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, but enforced disappearance is still not criminalized in Spanish law.
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.