Siranush Sahakyan Afeyan Grant Article
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Afeyan Research Grant Recipient: Siranush Sahakyan

4 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia — The American University of Armenia (AUA) is pleased to announce the three recipients of a one-year research grant, which was made possible thanks to a generous donation by the Afeyan Family Foundation. The University is grateful to the Afeyan Family Foundation for supporting these research activities, selected to bring positive impact to Armenian research and development.  

The supported projects are in three disciplines that have been deemed priorities for the development of Armenia, namely economics, law, and medicine. AUA will continue to support faculty research through internal seed funding for the continuation of these projects beyond the first year, as well as to promote similar research among other faculty members. 

The research awards were announced on July 18, 2023, with immediate start dates. They are expected to be conducted during the academic year 2023-24, with each principal investigator delivering a mid-year status report as well as a final report upon completion of the project by August 30, 2024.

In a series of three articles, beginning with this one, we will profile each of the principal investigators’ projects. In this second article, we will focus on the research Siranush Sahakyan is conducting with the grant she has received from the Afeyan Family Foundation.

A lecturer in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Representative of the Armenian Victims at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Sahakyan received a grant to lead a research project titled “Justice Barometer: Measuring Judicial Response to Corruption.” 

Sahakyan’s team aims to study the court decisions of the Anti-Corruption Court of Armenia in corruption cases (both criminal and civil), evaluating the performance of the judiciary in tackling corruption at the legislative, institutional, and individual level and proposing adequate and feasible measures to address identified problems through implementation of evidence-based policy in the justice sector.

Sahakyan was interviewed by AUA Communications Specialist Serena Hajjar Bakunts to obtain a first-hand account of her project:

  • What inspired your research project?

In April 2021, the National Assembly approved a legislative package establishing an anti-corruption court tasked with handling cases related to corruption crimes and civil cases involving the confiscation of illicit property of illicit origin. The primary goal of creating this specialized court was to improve the efficiency of adjudicating corruption cases. However, the establishment and operation of the court have been met with negative public perceptions.

In the years 2021 and 2022, both the new Code of Criminal Procedure and Criminal Code came into effect. The revised Criminal Code introduced alternative punishments to imprisonment and instigated changes in the criminalization and decriminalization of various acts. The procedural innovations were intended to elevate the quality of investigation and prosecution while bolstering the protection of human rights and freedoms. These major conceptual shifts proposed fresh approaches and principles, necessitating a comprehensive understanding of their application and identification of any gaps in the implementation processes.

The motivation behind our research project stems from the aspiration to tackle identified issues within the administration of justice. The project is designed to create innovative tools for collecting, processing, and analyzing reliable and credible data. The ultimate goal is to provide a foundation for evidence-based and informed decision-making within the justice sector. Additionally, the project places strong emphasis on the significance of open data that is accessible to both the public and the professional community. This accessibility is expected to play a crucial role in fostering transparency and predictability in judicial policies.

  • Are students engaged in your project? If so, how many and in what capacity?

We have students actively involved in our project to enrich the research efforts. Specifically, we have one former alumni and one current student serving in expert positions. Additionally, two students are assisting in the research. This engagement of students not only provides them with valuable hands-on experience, but also reflects a commitment to building the capacity of legal and human rights professionals, allowing them to contribute meaningfully to the research objectives.

  • How do you see your research benefitting Armenia’s development? 

Our research endeavors hold the potential to significantly contribute to Armenia’s development by addressing corruption-related challenges within the justice sector. Through a comprehensive examination of the Anti-Corruption Court’s decisions and practices, our assessment will provide insight into the efficacy of the judiciary’s efforts in combating corruption. This evaluation, considering legislative, institutional, and individual capacities, forms a critical foundation for uncovering systemic strengths and weaknesses and offering a holistic view of the anti-corruption framework in place. By understanding these dynamics and proposing practical and feasible measures, rooted in empirical data and analysis, we aim to offer strategic solutions to guide targeted policy reforms that address corruption at its core. This approach not only enhances the integrity of the justice sector, but also fosters an environment conducive to sustainable development and public trust. In essence, our research aspires to serve as a catalyst for positive change, promoting good governance and integrity within Armenia’s legal framework.

  • Where does your research process currently stand?

As of now, the research is actively progressing through a dynamic phase of data collection. The analysis involves studying judicial actions, monitoring trials, and closely examining the intricacies of the judicial process. This ongoing data collection stage is crucial for obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Unfortunately, without completing the data collection process, it is challenging to draw firm conclusions or share specific findings. The research team recognizes the importance of thorough data collection as a foundation for robust analysis and meaningful insights. Once the data is fully gathered and analyzed, the research will be better positioned to reveal any interesting discoveries, trends, or patterns within the judicial landscape.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.