OTTAWA - The new leaders of Libya, helped to power by an air war waged by Canada and major allies, were denounced as torturers Thursday by major international groups.

The Canadian leader of Amnesty International called on the Harper government to use its influence with Libya's new transitional government to put an end to the abuse of prisoners, documented by the organization in a new report.

And Doctors Without Borders said it was suspending its work in Libyan prisons because of rampant torture of detainees. The group said it was pulling out of the city of Misrata because some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.

Amnesty said several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in recent weeks and months, and cited wide-spread, ill-treatment of loyalists of deposed dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.

"After all the promises to get detention centres under control, it is horrifying to find that there has been no progress to stop the use of torture," Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser, said in a statement from Libya.

"We are not aware of any proper investigations into cases of torture, and neither the survivors or relatives of those who have died in detention have had any recourse to justice or redress for what they have suffered."

Amnesty said its delegates met with detainees who showed visible signs of torture from recent days in Tripoli, the capital, and two other cities.

These included open wounds to the head, limbs, back and other body parts.

Amnesty said the torture is being carried out by "officially recognized military and security entities" as well as the many armed militias still active in the country.

Canada has stood firm behind Libya's new transitional leadership both before and after Gadhafi was driven from power last year, following 42 years of tyrannical rule. Canada's air force was a major contributor to the NATO-led, United Nations-sanctioned aerial bombardment that helped the rebel militias overthrow Gadhafi, and eventually hunt him down and kill him.

Canada's political support has included two visits by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who has said Libya's new leaders will have a long road towards building a democratic state.

Baird has attempted to dispel apprehension about Libya's new leadership, saying they represent "the best hope" for the future of the Libyan people.

"Whatever happens, they couldn't be any worse than Col. Gadhafi," Baird said last June.

Baird's office had no immediate comment Thursday.

Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty's Canadian branch, said he would be in touch directly with Baird to urge that Canada take swift action with the Libyans.

"We need to use all possible influence to push the Libyan authorities to take the steps that are necessary to make sure that torture isn't happening, that these kinds of deaths in custody after torture stop, and that the reforms that are necessary are put in place."

Neve suggested Baird missed the mark with his previous remark about Libya's new leaders.

"When it comes to an issue like torture, it's not a question of who's better or worse than anyone else. The simple question is: Is torture happening? Our research indicates that it is. The response then is: What needs to be done to bring it to an end. Let's get to it," said Neve.

"That's where Canada's focus should be — not deciding whether there's more or less torture than there was before, but what needs to be done to make sure there's no torture."

Libya's new leaders have acknowledged there have been some abuses, but have stuck to the line that they were not systematic.

However the reports and actions of Amnesty and Doctors Without Borders allege the abuse is widespread and systemic.

Amnesty met detainees in Tripoli, Misrata, and Gharyan, who in addition to their visible and recent injuries described beatings with electric cables and metal chains, as well as being suspended in contorted positions and given electric shocks.

Doctors Without Borders said its physicians in Misrata had treated 115 people since August who showed signs of torture. These included cigarette burns, heavy bruising, fractured bones, burned tissue from electric shocks and kidney failure after repeated beatings.

The group's general director Christopher Stokes said two detainees died after being interrogated.

"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable," Stokes said in a statement.

"Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions."

In November, the Conservative government staged an unprecedented military display on Parliament Hill to celebrate how Canadian fighter jets and a warship helped overthrow Gadhafi. It included a flyover of fighter jets and large transport aircraft.

Britain, which was a leading nation in the military campaign on Libya, responded quickly to Thursday's allegations.

Prime Minister David Cameron told Libya's new leaders in a statement to "live up to the high standards they have set themselves."

"They need to ensure a zero tolerance policy on abuse. We are concerned about these reports and are taking them up with the Libyans as a matter of urgency," Cameron's office said.

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