In Saudi Arabia, the victim usually does not know that they are about to be executed until immediately before it occurs. Often, they may not even realize that they have been sentenced to death.
In March 2004, Victor Corea, Ranjith de Silva, Sanath Pushpakumara and Sangeeth Kumara were arrested for armed robbery. The four Sri Lankan nationals were found guilty in October of the same year.
The men believed that they had been given a prison sentence; and the Sri Lankan embassy was given no reason to assume otherwise. Saudi Arabia does not publicize such information, even in diplomatic circles, to thwart international backlash from the like of Amnesty International.
On February 12th 2007, Human Rights Watch spoke with Ranjith de Silva. He appeared confident that the Saudi government were about to apply clemency and pardon the four men. It was reported that they each believed they would be out of prison imminently.
The interest of the activist group was in the fact that the men had been badly beaten while awaiting trial; and they had not been given access to lawyers. They didn't have the chance to pursue the case.
Seven days later, the four Sri Lankan men were given tranquilizers. This, and what followed, is what occurs in all decapitations in Saudi Arabia.
They were taken from their prison cells and driven to a car-park, adjacent to a busy market square. In their case it was in the capital city of Riyadh, but people are executed in similar locations all over the country.
These are always public spectacles and always take place immediately after noon prayers.
A broad plastic covering is placed on the ground and the condemned person is forced to kneel upon it. Their hands and feet are tied behind their backs. They will always have been blind-folded and often are dressed in a white robe. Sometimes a concession is given in allowing the victim to wear his or her own clothes. They will always be bare-foot.
Prayers continue through loudspeakers, as the crowds gather to watch. The victim kneels facing Mecca.
After a few minutes have passed, an Interior Ministry officer steps onto a small platform and reads out the charges.
Meanwhile, a police officer will hand a scimitar to the executioner. It is 3.6ft - 3.7ft (1100mm - 1200mm) long and kept solely for this purpose. The headsman has a few practice swipes in the air to gauge the weight (and to warm up his arm muscles), then touches the tip of the blade against the victim's back.
This is their cue to sit up straight. Within the next instant, the scimitar sweeps down and, if done correctly, beheads the victim in one go.