A US human rights watchdog has called on Libya's new regime to stop its loyalists from rounding up suspected opposition forces and torturing and enslaving them.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned on Friday that militiamen loyal to the Nato-backed National Transitional Council have locked up thousands of people on suspicion of supporting former leader Muammar Gadaffi, including women and children - and none have been brought before a judge.
It said that some detainees reporting beatings and electric shocks had the scars to prove it.
HRW staff recently visited 20 detention camps in Tripoli and interviewed 53 inmates, including 37 Libyan citizens and 16 sub-Saharan Africans.
The investigators discovered that NTC-aligned gunmen had forced some dark-skinned Libyan people and migrants to do manual labour, including carrying heavy materials, cleaning and renovating buildings around Tripoli or on military bases.
Detainees who reported abuse said guards beat them, sometimes daily.
HRW did not to release the names of detainees and facilities for fear of reprisals against those interviewed.
A sub-Saharan African man identified only as Mohammed wept as he showed HRW investigators welts on his arms, back and neck from beatings by guards at a small detention camp.
And seven prisoners in two facilities, including women, said guards had subjected them to electric shocks.
HRW regional director Joe Stork said: "After all that Libyans suffered in Muammar Gadaffi's jails, it's disheartening that some of the new authorities are subjecting detainees to arbitrary arrest and beatings today.
"The NTC owes it to the people of Libya to show that they will institute the rule of law from the start."
The NTC is struggling to form a new government amid infighting over government posts and continued resistance to its rule in several towns.
Italian energy giant Eni has signed a deal to restart oil and natural gas plants under Italian management.
The firm hopes to get natural gas, another mainstay of Libya's economy, flowing to Italy again through the Greenstream pipeline by October.
by Tom Mellen