A Swiss court has given the go-ahead for hearings to begin next month in a $12bn lawsuit against IBM by a group representing Gypsy victims of the Holocaust.
The Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action (GIRCA) - an association of more than 600 Gypsy organisations - filed a lawsuit against IBM almost a year ago. The court in Geneva has now ruled that preliminary hearings can proceed on 20 March.
The suit builds on claims in Edwin Black's book, IBM and the Holocaust; The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation, published in 2001.
In the book, Black argues that IBM and its subsidiaries provided the punch-card data-processing systems - known as Hollerith machines - that allowed Nazis to categorise and track concentration camp victims and that IBM was aware of how its equipment was being used.
The Nazis were believed to have killed about 600,000 Gypsies, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, during the Second World War. Despite recent settlements in Germany and Switzerland involving surviving victims of the Holocaust and their descendants, Gypsies have been largely excluded from compensation plans and other funds.
The lawsuit filed by GIRCA follows an earlier suit filed by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, also based on accusations by author Black.
On behalf of five Jewish holocaust survivors, US law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll filed, and later dropped in 2001, a lawsuit against IBM over its alleged business ties to the Nazi regime.
By dropping the suit, the firm sought to speed compensation payments to millions of victims of the Nazis.