Former Libyan revolutionaries still hold about 7,000 people, and some reportedly have been subjected to torture and ill treatment, according to a U.N. report circulated Monday.
The report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, made public before a Security Council briefing about Libya on Monday afternoon, says that many of the inmates have no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police and judiciary.
It also says that sub-Saharan Africans, in some cases accused or suspected of being mercenaries hired by Moammar Gadhafi's regime, constitute a large number of those held.
"While the (National Transitional Council) has taken some steps toward transferring responsibility for the detainees from brigades to proper state authorities, much remains to be done to regularize detention, prevent abuse and bring about the release of those whose detention should not be prolonged," the report says.
"I believe that the leaders of the new Libya are indeed committed to building a society based on the respect for human rights," Ban said in his report. "Achieving this requires the earliest possible action, however difficult the circumstances, to end arbitrary detention and prevent abuses and discrimination, against third country nationals as well as against any group of Libya's own citizens."
The spokesman for Libya's new army, Ahmed Bani, said in Libya on Monday that he was unaware of the reported mistreatment.
"I am not sure if it happened. Maybe, but if it happened, don't blame us. We were suffering for 42 years. He was hurting us, he was killing us and he raped our women," he said.
Ban's special representative for Libya, Ian Martin, told the Security Council later Monday that he had urged the new ministers of interior and defense "to give high priority to addressing swiftly" the U.N. chief's concerns regarding the detentions.
"The new government must show that it is a priority for effective action," Martin said.
The special envoy said other urgent issues include dealing with a flood of uncontrolled arms in the country, and figuring out how to free up frozen funds so the country can begin rebuilding.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters afterward that she briefed the group on a trip she made last week to Libya, where she met with activists and leaders of the transitional government.
Rice said that she found Libyans to be "overwhelming exuberant and excited about their future" and that they praised the Security Council for authorizing military force to protect civilians during Gadhafi's crackdown.