In recent times, the question of whether transitional justice can and should ameliorate structural inequalities has been taken up with increased interest by scholars and policy makers. This has led to more ‘transformative’ understandings of transitional justice, which seek to inter alia broaden its conception of justice to include both restorative and redistributive agendas. The Colombian restitution program explicitly adopts a transformative concept of reparations and thus provides an opportunity to consider how a broader conception of justice could be translated into practice through transitional justice mechanisms. While recognising that both restorative and distributive justice can contribute to the reparative needs of victims, this article argues that a transformative approach does not adequately consider the genuine tensions between these dimensions. In addition to this theoretical obstacle, the difficulties of implementation suggest that it creates unrealistic expectations of what reparations can accomplish in practice.