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news 15 Oct 13

Bosnian NGOs Question Validity of Census

After monitoring the census for two weeks, a group of non-governmental organizations said many irregularities had been reported, which could undermine the validity of the result.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

The census monitor, an ad hoc project of a group of non-governmental organizations, said it had received over a hundred reports of irregularities through its online platform during the two weeks of the census, which ends on October 15.

The NGOs said many irregularities appeared to have occurred in the process, ranging from technical unpreparedness to manipulation.

“The credibility of the census in more that 500 census areas is questionable, and there is a reasonable doubt whether 20 per cent of the filled questionnaires are valid,” Dalio Sijah, of the census monitor project, said.

The NGOs involved in the monitoring process said they noticed many other flaws in the census, which started on October 1.

“There was no central storage space for the census materials and not enough questionnaires were printed,” Sijah said.

Several public campaigns connected to the census were also against the law, such as public calls to citizens of Serbia and Croatia to come and get counted in Bosnia, he added.

He quoted reports which said that people living in Serbia but who own property in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica were urged by former town councilors to come to the town and get enumerated, while one Croatian institution had urged citizens to go to Bosnia and get enumerated as Bosnian Croats.

Since the census started two weeks ago, complaints of irregularities have poured in. Some involved claims that census officials interviewed people in restaurants and filled in questionnaires there.

The Statistics Agency last week already said the census would have to be repeated in five counting areas inthe troubled and ethnically divided town of Srebrenica.

“It was determined that enumerators were not conducting their work in accordance with the law and procedures,” the agency explained.

In one incident, Bosnian border police told the agency that enumerators from Srebrenica had tried to take questionnaires across the border to Serbia.

Enumerators from Srebrenica who were caught filling in the questionnaires in a local restaurant would be suspended, the agency said.

Bosnia has not had a census for 22 years – a period that included the 1992-95 war, when hundreds of thousands of people were killed, internally displaced or fled the country.

The 1991 census reported 4.4 million citizens in Bosnia. Most estimates suggest only around 3.8 million people now live in the country.

Three months after the census ends, the Statistics Agency will present the preliminary results.

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