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Weiner ’80 Organizes Effort to Vaccinate Bosnians

Former international war crimes judge rallies international consortium and BC Law community to get doses to desperate nation.


Bosnia is set to receive 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine thanks to the efforts of a coalition led by Hon. Phillip Weiner ’80. Weiner, a former international war crimes judge at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, began assembling groups in March to assist in advocating for vital donations to the struggling residents of the Balkan Peninsula.

The country of Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the worst Covid-19 infection/death rates in Europe due to fewer than 5 percent of the population (3.3 million) receiving vaccinations. Weiner lived in Sarajevo when he served as an international war crimes judge handling cases from the Bosnian war of 1992-1995.

His mission to help the residents of Bosnia began after speaking on the phone with international attorney Nadja Skaljic, who was born in Bosnia just before the 1992-95 war and a was a mentee of Weiner’s throughout her time studying law in Sarajevo.

When Skaljic informed Weiner about the passing of his dear friend David Kamhi, a diplomat, author, Sephardic historian, and acclaimed concert violinist, he decided it was time to rally the troops and urge the US government to help.

Weiner and Skaljic worked together to assemble a core team of international judges and prosecutors whose reputations helped sway the vaccine movement. Among that team was Elizabeth Fahey ’77, who served as a judge at the State Court of Sarajevo.

BC Law’s involvement expanded from there. Weiner relied on Darald & Juliet Libby Emeritus Professor Sanford Katz and Professor Joan Blum to review documents. Blum and her husband Dan Hassenfeld approached a major philanthropic foundation for support. Weiner tapped into the expertise of Benjamin Weiner ’07 (no relation), who served for several years as a legal adviser to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, for advice on how to effectively contact and obtain support from members of Congress. One of those approached was Senator Edward Markey ’72.

Additional groups consisting of attorneys, academics, diplomats, and the Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina followed, rounding out a coalition of persistent difference-makers whose efforts brought on a wave of donations coming from various nations eager to lend a hand.

The 500,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine donated by the US were followed by a donation from Turkey. Greece pledged it would donate 120,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Austria has since followed suit.

“The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have suffered through years of war in the 1990’s followed by economic hardship,” Weiner said. “They deserved a break, and I am so proud that our country has stepped forward to help them with this donation of life-saving vaccine.”

Read more in the Jewish Journal.

Photo by Vicki Sanders