The decisions by the EU General Court are the latest defeats the bloc has suffered as it seeks to uphold dozens of decisions in recent years to impose asset freezes and travel bans on hundreds of individuals and companies in Iran and Syria.
Those defeats, caused in part by repeated demands by the court for more detailed evidence, have weighed on the bloc as it mulls how far to push sanctions now on Russia over Ukraine case, diplomats have said.
In many cases, member states have refused to provide confidential evidence to the judges because the court's rules mean some of that information has to be made available to lawyers for those appealing the sanctions.
In the case of Sharif University, the EU had imposed an asset freeze for "providing support to Iran's proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities." The EU said the university provided laboratories for use by two firms sanctioned by the United Nations and the EU, respectively.
"The General Court considers that the council committed a manifest error of assessment and failed to discharge the burden of proof which rests on it," the court said in a news release.
The court said the bloc sent documents justifying the university's listing after the permitted date and that the documents "contain no information or material which adds anything to" the case against the university. The court said the EU member state which proposed listing the university opposed sharing a confidential document to back up the claim.
"There is nothing to support the claims that SUT assisted the entities…to violate the restrictive measures adopted against Iran, or provided direct support to Iranian nuclear activities," the court said.
The court said it would give the European Council two months before lifting the asset freeze. That could allow the EU to sanction the university on different grounds.
In the case of Mr. Alchaar, the court said the EU was within its rights to sanction him while he was a government minister without providing additional evidence. But, the court said, after Mr. Alchaar, a leading economist, left office in May 2012 the EU had to be able to provide evidence of his continued links to the Assad regime and his joint responsibility for government actions.
"The General Court states however that the council did not provide such evidence," the court said in a news release.
It said the EU "improperly" decided that the burden of proof was on Mr. Alchaar to establish he is no longer tied to the Assad regime.
The court also accused the EU of failing "to examine carefully and impartially" evidence provided by the former minister that he wasn't a member of Mr. Assad's Baath Party, didn't exercise political responsibilities and opposed the use of violence to solve the Syrian crisis.
With the EU continuing to lose cases, member states have been seeking ways to legally ring-fence their sanctions regime for months now. In the spring, the General Court submitted proposals which would make it easier for member states to provide confidential evidence to the court without that information being fully shared.
Those proposals are currently under discussion with member states due to meet again to discuss the ideas later in July. However, people involved in the talks say it will still be months before any decision is made.
Write to Laurence Norman at Laurence.Norman@wsj, com ---The EU has lost two new sanctions cases, with the bloc's second highest court overturning the EU's decisions to blacklist Iran's Sharif University of Technology and former Syrian minister Mohamad Nedal Alchaar.--- ...