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Petition for the permanent cessation of Full-Body Scanning at UK airports.

August 27, 2010

We the undersigned hereby petition the government to stop all Full-Body Scanning procedures at UK airports. The programme is a clear violation of human rights, is ineffective, and threatens the health and safety of air travellers and airport staff.

Human Rights Violations
The compulsory full-body scanning process reveals air passengers as if seen naked and therefore violates Article 8 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 (HRA), the right to privacy (1). The process is also a blatant affront to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2) and Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights (3) . As the UN special rapporteur on human rights was quoted, the use of full-body scanners, “would be a violation of human rights in respect to everyone, but there are particular sensitivities in respect of women, certain religious, certain cultural backgrounds.” (4)

Wholly inadequate training and vetting is leading to violations in Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which protects citizens from degrading treatment (5), as in a case at Heathrow airport earlier this year in which a security screener was accused of ‘ogling’ a fellow worker through the device. (6)

Article 9 of the HRA, Freedom of Belief, is compromised by the FBS process (7). Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, stated body scanning at airports was “totally unacceptable and outrageous. And worse, it really doesn’t make any security sense.” (8) In February of this year two British women were refused the right to board their flight after objecting to being scanned on religious and health grounds (9). Pope Benedict XVI (10) and Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish group have also spoken out against the scanners.(11)

The scanning programme also violates the Protection of Children Act 1978, under which it is illegal to create an indecent image or a pseudo-image of a child. (12)

Ineffective Technology
ConservativeMPBen Wallace, advisor to AIT manufacturer QinetiQ, said the scanners were unlikely to detect explosives such as PETN (13). The director of Interpol described the technology as flawed (14) and a spokesperson for UK FBS manufacturer Smiths Detection stated that the technology was not ready to be used as a primary screening technique yet (15).

Health and Safety
Eminent scientists from the University of California explain how Backscatter radiation (Rapiscan 1000) cannot be compared to cosmic radiation as in the Health Protection Agency’s risk assessment (16). Unlike cosmic radiation, backscatter scanners are “largely depositing energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue” increasing the risk of cancer and other malformations (17). Nor has any consideration been given to security screeners working with the vicinity of the scanners (18).
The alternative FBS technology, the so called Millimetre Wave, is also claimed to be a health risk as it can damage double-stranded DNA (19).
Furthermore, the fact that backscatter FBS in use at UK airports contain radioactive materials and cause further accumulations at security points could provide terrorist with additional targets.

The new government has pledged to reverse the Orwellian trend in British society. The Deputy Prime Minister said in his remarks on 19th May that the new coalition would end the culture of spying on its citizens. Rt Hon Nick Clegg stated, “It is outrageous that ordinary citizens should be treated as if they have something to hide.” We strongly agree and urge you to suspend the Full-Body Scanning programme in the UK.




  1. Article 8 Human Rights Act 1998, Right to respect for private and family life
  2. Article 12. UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  3. Article 7 European Charter on Fundamental Human Rights (EHRC).  Full-body scanner use is also in clear violation of Articles 1 of the EHRC (Human dignity), and 10 (Right to freedom of Religion) as it impedes the following of the teachings of certain religions
  4. Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  5. Article 3 HRA Prohibition of torture
  6. “Heathrow worker ogled colleague on scanner”, By Rosamond Hutt, PA, The Independent, 24 March 2010
  7. Article 9 HRA Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  8. Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, quoted as saying that the FBS “don’t make any security sense.”
  9. “Muslim woman barred from flight after refusing body scan” – Telegraph, 3 Mar 2010
  10. The Pope, while addressing a congregation of airport workers at the Vatican, was reported as saying that with “every action, it is above all essential to protect and value the human person in their integrity. Respecting these principles can seem particularly complex and difficult in the present context [heightened airport security]”. While FBS were not directly mentioned,there was a consensus among those present that the Pope was referring to the effect on human rights that the FBS have.
  11. In a letter to the US Senate in June 2009, Agudath Israel, which represents traditional American Orthodox communities, voiced their opposition to FBS. Leaders in both Conservative and Orthodox communities are debating how scanners with the ability to see through clothing intersect with Jewish laws of tzniut, or modesty, which are observed differently among denominations but generally require Jews to cover their bodies.
  12. Protection of Children Act 1978 CHAPTER 37 An Act to prevent the exploitation of children by making indecent photographs of them; and to penalise the distribution, showing and advertisement of such indecent photographs.
  13. BBC :Airport body scanners ‘unlikely’ to foil al-Qaeda – MP “Mr Wallace said the scanners would probably not have detected the failed Detroit plane plot of Christmas Day. He said the same of the 2006 airliner liquid bomb plot and of explosives used in the 2005 bombings of three Tube trains and a bus in London.”
  14. Interpol head, Ronald K. Noble criticises FBS use at Davos 2010.
  15. Colin McSeveny, of Smiths Detection, UK, states that the scanner technology is not yet ready to be used.
  16. Health protection Agency FBS risk assessment for the DfT. Compares Backscatter radiation of Rapiscan 100 in use at Manchester and Heathrow airports with cosmic (gamma) radiation.
  17. Letter of Concern from group of eminent scientists from the University of California addressed to Dr John Holdren, the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.
  18. FOI 6176 DfT reply to Adam Woodward 9thth March 2010 “What specific tests have been carried out on the long-term effects of working with said equipment?” DfT response: “We do not hold specific information on the effects of working with this equipment
  19. (Millimetre Wave Scanners) DNA Breathing Dynamics in the Presence of a Terahertz Field Millimetre wave radiation “unzips” double-stranded DNA

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