by RAY FLEMING l IS there anyone left in the world who believes that what the United States is doing at its Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is legal and humane? Other than the US Administration and its supporters, that is. Yesterday's report by human rights investigators of the United Nations put clearly into writing with the imprimatur of the UN what has been well-known ever since the first so-called “illegal combatants” were incarcerated at the camp in January 2002. For four years some 500 men have been held in oppressive conditions without any charge being made against them and therefore with no opportunity to defend themselves. The US Administration repeatedly says that the prisoners are “dangerous men” but takes no step to prove that this is so or even to show any of the evidence held against them. Even if the conditions in which they were being held were acceptable under Geneva Conventions, the fact would remain that they have been arbitrarily deprived of their freedom and denied the right to answer the accusations against them. However, the UN report makes clear that their conditions are not acceptable and that “aspects of their treatment amount to torture”. Let us think for a moment what would be said in the United States if a situation comparable to Guantanamo Bay were to be discovered in Russia today. We would hear that the Kremlin had reverted to its old Gulag tactics and that President Putin had no claim to be running a democratic country. Yet how does Guantanamo differ from the Gulags, except perhaps in scale? The defence made by the White House yesterday against the UN report was pathetic. Yes, it is true that the UN investigators refused an invitation to visit Guantanamo, but only because they were told they would not be permitted to talk with the prisoners in private. What point would there have been in talking to the military guards and other staff who would naturally be under orders to defend their actions? Instead, the UN team has gathered information from other sources, including some of the very few prisoners who have been released. President Bush obviously has no conception of the damage that Guantanamo Bay is doing to the reputation of his country, and also to that of countries such as Britain which do not dissociate themsleves from this disgraceful operation.