From Body Scanners to Brexit and Back Again
Between 2010 and 2013, members of this group fought tooth and nail to rid the UK of the ‘No-Scan / No-Fly’ rule imposed on UK air passengers. The ruling, put in place by the then Brown government, in the wake of the Underwear Bomber incident, meant that all passengers could be subjected to a compulsory body scan or lose their flight. We felt that the ruling was unfair, disproportionate, a risk to fundamental human rights, a risk to public health, and a contradictory security measure.
Over a period of 3 and a half years, we lobbied and petitioned the EU and the European Commission to finally come to a decision on body scanner use. Eventually, the EC ruled that Backscatter radiation scanners (in use at Heathrow and Manchester airports) were a risk to public health and should be banned. They have subsequently been banned all around the world. They also agreed that the No-Scan / No-Fly rule was coercive and therefore in violation of the European Charter of Human Rights, not to mention the almost identical UK version of the charter.
In 2011, when this ruling was finally passed, the UK Conservative government decided to ignore EU law claiming they were under more of a threat from terrorist attacks than the rest of the EU. The EC said and did nothing. Thanks to the dogged perseverance of one of our members who petitioned the EC to apply its own law, the European Commissioner for transport finally contacted the UK Home Office and the next day, the No-Scan / No-Fly rule was lifted.
What does Brexit have to do with Body Scanners?
The main battle cry of those campaigning for a divorce between the EU and the UK has always been “taking back our sovereignty”, but what does that really mean? The explanation has always centered on the UK being subject to restrictive EU laws and decisions taken either by the Commission, or by the European Parliament. We know for a fact that high on Home Secretary Theresa May’s agenda has always been the scrapping of the Human Rights Charter. Thankfully for us, she has never been able to do this simply because the EU won’t allow her to get away with such a scandalous and abusive act.
A vote on Thursday 23rd June for Brexit will, without any doubt, result in Theresa May’s ambition to eliminate the Human Rights Charter and open the door to rights abuses on a scale never seen before, and not least those egged on by the security technologies lobby.
The European Union may be considered a debacle, and those of us who campaigned so hard for an EU ruling on scanners can sympathise to some extent with this view, but it is currently our last line of defence in maintaining and further strengthening our fundamental human rights. One of the many dangers we therefore face, is a return to compulsory body scanning.
Please remember this on Thursday June 23rd 2016.