Most of them claimed they were wrongfully imprisoned by the US authorities and subjected to inhumane treatment.
On 11 January 2002, the first batch of prisoners arrived at the newly built makeshift Camp X-Ray at the US naval base in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay.
The prison consisted of small cages with chain-link sides and metal roofs.
In the last two decades, 780 men have passed through the facility, which was built in the wake of September 11, 2001.
Critics say it allows detainees to be held indefinitely outside normal US laws. Rights groups called the prison “a site of unparalleled notoriety”.
It was never meant to be permanent. But 20 years on, despite calls for the closure of the detention facility, it still stands holding 39 men, who have little prospect of their release.
Between 2002 and 2021, nine detainees died in custody. Two of those died from natural causes while seven reportedly committed suicide. None were charged or convicted of a crime.
Here is who they are:
Abdul Razzaq Hekmati
Regarded as a war hero and famous for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the 80s in Afghanistan, Hekmati was arrested in 2003 by American forces in southern Afghanistan, where he was falsely accused of being a Taliban commander.
The US military charged Hekmati of being “high in the Al Qaeda hierarchy,” and was “part of the main security escort for Osama bin Laden”, according to transcripts released by the Pentagon.
Hekmati denied all those charges and maintained that he was opposed to the Taliban.
Prisoners have testified they were subjected to torture…— Gutsy Voice (@GutsyVoice) January 10, 2022
Sketches by Abu Zubaydah at #Guantanamo Bay detailing what the state-approved CIA's interrogation programme looked like. #America #GITMO20 pic.twitter.com/rhSUn13ffR
“It was one person who gave them wrong information and just because of this wrong person, I am here. They can’t prove anything against me because I never did anything wrong,” he said at his October 2004 review hearing.
Hekmati, known for a daring prison break organised for three opponents of the Taliban government in 1999, was held at Guantánamo Bay for five years, where he died of cancer at 68.
Held without charges since 2002, Gul collapsed and died after using an exercise machine at Guantanamo detention camp in 2011. The US military said the death appeared to have been from natural causes. He was accused of being a Taliban commander and part of the al-Qaeda network.
Yasser Talal Al Zahrani
A citizen of Saudi Arabia, Al Zahrani was sent to Guantánamo Bay the month the detention center opened, in January 2002. He died on June 10, 2006, at the age of 21, in a group suicide by three men on a single cellblock, according to the military. He was suspected of being "a front line fighter for the Taliban" and then later “second line”.
Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi
Al-Utaybi was one of the three detainees who committed suicide at the detention center. He was due to be released but had not been told. Mark Denbeaux, an American law professor who represented some of the foreign prisoners, had told the BBC World Service that Mani al-Utaybi was among 141 prisoners due to be released.
He was not informed because US officials had not yet decided which country he would be sent to, Denbeaux had said. A citizen of Saudi Arabia, al-Utaybi was captured at a Pakistani checkpoint in January 2002 and turned over to US forces, then sent to Guantánamo Bay in June 2002.
Listen to CAGE's Outreach Director @Moazzam_Begg speak about Guantanamo Bay's 20 year anniversary being marked on the 11th of Jan and for you all to join us in the Twitter Storm today!. #GITMO20 pic.twitter.com/PDY0bu4BwX— CAGE (@UK_CAGE) January 10, 2022
He traveled to Afghanistan for humanitarian work and someone there had sold him to the Americans for $5,000, according to one of his cousins.
Ali Abdullah Ahmed (Salah Ahmed al-Salami)
Ahmed was arrested in 2002 by the Pakistani police in a raid on a guesthouse near his college and sent to Guantánamo Bay. He had been on hunger strikes throughout 2005 and 2006 and was force-fed as a result.
He died on June 10, 2006 in a group suicide.
"I am informing you that I gave away the precious thing that I have in which it became very cheap, which is my own self, to lift up the oppression that is upon us through the American Government," Ahmed, the 26-year-old detainee from Yemen wrote in his suicide note.
"I did not like the tube in my mouth, now go ahead and accept the rope in my neck."
Abdul Rahman Ma'ath Thafir Al Amri
The Pentagon identified Al Amri as a 34-year-old former member of the Saudi armed forces and said that officials had held him in one of stricter areas of the detention center due to a need to control him.
He died there on May 30, 2007, in what the military described as a suicide. He was a persistent hunger striker.
Citizen of Saudi Arabia, Al Amri fled Afghanistan in December 2001, was captured by Pakistani security forces in the same month and sent to Guantánamo Bay in February 2002.
Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi
He was held without charge since February 2002. His lawyers said he was one of seven prisoners being held in a psychiatric ward, where he was restrained in a chair and force-fed through a tube, indicating he was on a hunger strike.
Pentagon medical records show Saleh's weight had dropped to 87 pounds (39 kg) in 2005.
Ahmed was found "unresponsive" in his cell on June 1, 2009 and the guards called it an apparent suicide.
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
The 32-year-old man from Yemen who had spent eleven years incarcerated complained of abuse by prison staff.
He had written that guards “entered my cell on a regular basis. They throw me and drag me on the floor… they strangle me and press hard behind my ears until I lose consciousness”.
According to a military report, Latif had collected medication prescribed for mental illness and died in 2012 after ingesting two dozen capsules of a drug known as Invega.
Latif traveled from Yemen to Pakistan and then made his way into Afghanistan where he was captured.
He had suffered brain damage from a car accident and claimed he had gone to the region seeking medical treatment.
Haji Nassim also known as Inayatullah
Citizen of Afghanistan, Nassim was brought to Guantánamo Bay in September 2007 on suspicion of being a member of al Qaeda. The military said he hung himself with a bedsheet and died there on May 18, 2011. He was designated for continued detention as a law-of-war detainee.