Olya Kazaeva, an elderly resident of Vanadzor in northern Armenia, recently learned that she and her family were being evicted from their townhouse. The house had been sold at a public auction by local authorities using what she believed were forged documents. With no prior notice and facing immediate eviction, Olya went to court, where she was told her case was groundless. With nowhere else to go, Olya visited her local Advocacy and Assistance Center (AAC). The Vanadzor AAC is one of eleven centers located throughout the country, operated by local NGOs, where victims of corruption receive free legal assistance on a walk-in or call-in basis.
Olya told the AAC staff that a creditor was pursuing one of her neighbors for an outstanding debt. According to her, the creditor collaborated with the local land title office to obtain a forged certificate of ownership which stated that Olya’s townhouse actually belonged to her neighbor. This certificate was the basis for the auction in which Olya’s property was sold. To make matters worse, officials from the agency responsible for carrying out the public auction allegedly forged a signature, making an in-law of the creditor the winning bidder.
AAC legal staff mobilized on two fronts. First, they filed an appeal in the civil court and won, getting the case referred back to the general court and suspending the immediate eviction of Olya and her family. Second, they initiated two criminal cases with the regional prosecutor’s office: one against the local land title office for supposedly tampering with official documents and another against the public auction agency for allegedly forging signatures. Both of these cases are pending.
Olya thanked the AAC’s staff, stating that without their intervention her “family could have been thrown out on the street with no place to live.” Olya’s success illustrates how AACs are empowering citizens throughout Armenia to fight corruption in areas such as property registration.