Port-au-Prince, Haiti: The top United Nations human rights officer in Haiti has described the human rights situation in Haiti as catastrophic and has called on interim authorities here to immediately fix it.

Thierry Fagart, head the UN Mission Human Rights Unit in Haiti, has also denounced a number of cases of torture, massacre, summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions by Haitian officials.

He said there were defenceless people being hacked to death and burned by mobs, acting sometimes with police involvement.

“This is the human rights situation in Haiti today. For us, this situation is catastrophic. It so catastrophic that it needs to be corrected rapidly,” Fagart, a French lawyer, told reporters in the Haitian capital during a  press conference over the weekend of October 15-16.

“It is time to put an end to that situation which cannot continue,” said Fagart, warning that the upcoming election period could be a difficult phase in terms of human rights and security.

He cited a massacre perpetrated in the Martissant neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, on August 20. An inquiry, conducted by a team of UN human rights experts and international police under Fagart’s supervision, found that at least ten people were killed by Haitian police and civilians armed with machetes.

“When the massacre occurred, we reacted rapidly. It happened on Saturday and we started our investigation on Monday,” said the UN official.

Several massacres, in slum strongholds of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, have been blamed on the Haitian police. UN officials say physical abuses of people in police custody and of other detainees by prison guards are still common occurrence in the country.

Police Chief Mario Andresol acknowledged this week that an important number of police officers were involved in killings, kidnappings and other criminal activities. Andresol announced that fifteen policemen were going to be prosecuted for such crimes.

“The situation in the prisons is absolutely dramatic,” Fagart said.

The UN said only 60 of the 1,632 people detained at the national penitentiary up to now were sentenced.