This paper takes up a recent discussion concerning the nature of transitional justice:
is it an ordinary form of liberal democratic justice that is simply applied in a unique
context (namely that of a state's coming into being), or is it sui generis - a special
kind of justice arising from the conditions and circumstances that pertain during
transitions? Answering this question requires understanding the political and moral
goals officials tend to pursue in transitional settings. It also requires mapping out the
possible tensions between such goals. Once these tasks are accomplished, it becomes
easier to describe the nature of transitional justice. In part 1, I describe the different
aims of transitional justice projects. In part 2, I argue that given the friction between
these aims, transitional justice settings are defined by the prevalence of the so-called
"peace versus justice" dilemma. I also argue that this dilemma is both real and insolvable.
It cannot simply be argued away. As such it is best described as a paradox rather
than a debate. Part 3 discusses the implications of this description for the debate
about the nature of transitional justice.