Project Manager Sona Ayvazyan, together with Project Coordinators Levon Barseghyan and Artur Sakunts presented one and half year activity of Yerevan, Shirak Marz and Lori Marz Anti-corruption Advocacy and Assistance Centers during a press conference, convened at "Friday" Club on June 25, 2010. The "Establishment and Operation of AACs in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor" project by Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center in partnership with "Asparez" Journalists' Club and Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office was launched within the framework of USAID Mobilizing Action Against Corruption Activity, implemented by Casals and Associates, Inc. Armenia Branch.

Since its establishment on October 8, 2008 till June 1, 2010 Yerevan, Shirak Marz and Lori Marz AACs received 1,317 applications (581 - in Yerevan, 286 - in Gyumri and 450 - in Vanadzor, respectively), out of which corruption-related cases included 360 (139- in Yerevan, 44 - in Gyumri and 177 - in Vanadzor). Corruption-related cases were provided due legal assistance. Out of 66 complaints addressed to prosecutor's office 28 were sent by Yerevan, 16 by Gyumri and 22 by Vanadzor AACs, and out of 75 complaints addressed to courts 33 were sent by Yerevan, 13 by Gyumri and 29 by Vanadzor AACs. During the first five months of 2010 only, AACs received more than 500 applications, out of which corruption-related cases included 80.

A number of legislative gaps were outlined during the centers' activities, which caused spread of corruption, resulting in human rights violations. AACs particularly exposed the shortcomings in the process of initiating criminal cases with regard to corruption crimes, determined by deficiency of legislation and improper response to written reports of corruption crimes by law enforcement agencies. Restriction of public institutions' right to apply to the administrative court, requiring to overrule unlawful legal acts to the detriment of public interests, was considered a serious obstacle in fighting corruption.

The following peculiarities were recorded during one and half year activity of Yerevan, Shirak Marz and Lori Marz AACs.

- Needy and socially vulnerable groups of population are deprived of the opportunity to get free legal assistance and accordingly request any free legal support in order to settle their versatile problems. On the whole, citizens avoid pursuing restoration of their violated rights by applying legal leverages because of low level of awareness about the opportunities to complain, general fear and lack of confidence toward state institutions, in particular law enforcement agencies and courts. Low level of awareness is also determined by the fact that the representatives of mass media, save a couple of printed and online media, in particular those in provinces (Marzes) fail to cover corruption-related cases.

- Application of legal leverages regarding corruption-related cases is frequently a long term process because of ineffective red-tape, which eventually entails despair and disappointment. The citizens' complaints oftentimes do not receive due response by administrative bodies, leaving them unprotected and vulnerable against state institutions.

- State institutions, particularly law enforcement bodies in general, tend to protect/suppress criminal acts and are reluctant to show real will to set the affairs going, regarding corruption cases. Those who commit crimes are not liable to responsibility even when their crimes are detected. Despite some positive advances, citizens' fight against corruption fails to succeed and does not cause "domino effect" to bring forth systemic change.

The AACs aim to support public participation in fighting corruption and to promote anti-corruption systemic reforms in Armenia. They provide citizens with advice and assistance in the legal processing of corruption-related complaints and assist them in addressing grievances and other corruption-related problems, thus serving as an accessible channel for reporting corruption and directing complaints to governmental agencies, including courts. AACs analyze complaints, identifying loopholes that promote proliferation of corrupt practices, developing policy proposals and organizing campaigns for institutional reforms. The AACs also promote raising public awareness on corruption matters and citizens' rights.